And now a kind word for of all things - pesticides.

Yes, we know that few steps could be less popular these days than a defense of pesticides. Environmental extremists have made the word almost obscene. But consider a few facts:- Thanks to pesticides and herbicides, America has come a long way since the 1930s when soil erosion, caused by over-farming, forced thousands of families from the land. The introduction of those chemicals made over-farming obsolete. At the same time, they vastly increased agricultural yields. Take potatoes, for example. In 1940, an exceptional yield was 82 100-pound sacks per acre; today, a good yield is 275 sacks.

- The introduction of recent pesticides, Scripps Howard News Service recently reported, has cut food costs by 33 percent.

- More than 99 percent of the pesticides Americans ingest are produced by the plants we eat.

- Natural pesticides are found to be cancer-causing in the same proportion as synthetic pesticides.

- The validity of methods that determine such carcinogencity is in serious doubt. In animal tests, for example, the cancer may be caused by the massive doses rather than by the character of the substance being tested.

- Pesticide traces on food are almost inconceivably small, measured often in parts per trillion. One part per trillion is equivalent to the size of one postage stamp in an area the size of Dallas.

So relax. And before dinner tonight, say a good word for pesticides.