History of the Apple in 10 Objects: Paris Green

Paris green was the first arsenical insecticide used on apples. Developed in the 1870s, it was developed to control the codling moth, a pest accidentally brought to North America by European settlers.

Before the late 19th century, pesticides and insecticides were not widely used in North America. Many of the pests that would eventually become troublesome had not yet made the trip to the New World. Public perceptions of how fruit should look also discouraged the use of pesticides – some pest damage was een as natural and unavoidable. Many people saw no problem with bumpy, pock-marked fruit. Still-life paintings from before the 19th century clearly show insect damage and disease. Insects simply came with the territory of fresh fruit consumption.

All this began to change in the 19th century as more growers began producing fruit for market and fresh eating rather than for cider and home consumption. Blemish-free fruit became the new standard.

By the 1940s, apple growers used up to seven applications of lead arsenate each season. And after World War II, DDT found a place in the orchard.

While concerns over pesticide use led to the development of integrated pest management for apples, pesticide use on apples remains higher than on most other crops as fruit growers strive to meet marketplace demands for inexpensive and perfect, shiny fruit.



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