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I am trying to describe the nature of pesticides. Although they are mostly harmful, we need them in order to produce the amount of food the world requires. Is there a word or phrase besides "necessary evil"?

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A necessary evil is exactly the term everyone uses. Or the lesser evil. – Cerberus Apr 24 '14 at 20:23
And of course we don't actually need any pesticides. We produce much, much more food than is needed to feed the world. It is just distributed very poorly, fed to animals instead of people, or simply thrown away, tens of thousands of tons every day. – RegDwigнt Apr 24 '14 at 20:41
Hurts so good ... – bib Apr 24 '14 at 21:20

Almost all aspects of life entail risk. We do risk to benefit analyses (albeit very poorly in most cases) and decide what is an acceptable risk, overall beneficial, an acceptable hazard, a comparative necessity, a calculated risk, a valid risk, a net positive (merit assessment), etc.

All these seem clumsy to me compared to overall positive risk-to-benefit ratio, or, colloquially, a necessary evil, or even a mixed blessing.

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Deciding to use pesticides we have to take the bad with the good of it.

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