Can farms maintain productivity while reducing pesticide use?

Farming tractor plowing and spraying on field vertical
How would reducing pesticides affect productivity? (Photo: iStock Images)

A new UN report states that it is dangerously misleading to suggest that pesticides are necessary to achieve food security. Instead, the report recommends that farms reduce pesticide use and adopt sustainable practices that protect crops from pests by enhancing biodiversity and natural enemies. This agroecological approach eliminates reliance on, and exposure to, expensive and toxic chemical inputs, but would it really allow farmers to be just as productive?

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New guidelines for addressing highly hazardous pesticides

The new guidelines list the 8 criteria which determine whether a pesticide is highly hazardous © USAID Egypt (CC BY-NC)
The new guidelines list 8 criteria which determine whether a pesticide is highly hazardous © USAID Egypt (CC BY-NC)

Written by Melanie Bateman, CABI

There are many different ways in which pesticides can potentially cause harm to human health or to the environment. For example, substances which are acutely toxic can knock someone down rather rapidly, with symptoms felt within a short space of time. Chronic toxicity, on the other hand, can lead to effects which develop slowly following long and continuous exposure to low concentrations of a hazardous pesticide. Potential consequences of chronic exposure include health problems such as birth defects, developmental issues, cancers, etc. Pesticides can also impact non-target organisms such predators, pollinators, soil biota and aquatic organisms.  Continue reading

Farmer Health: A Case Against Pesticides

Guest blog by Julie Potyraj; read her previous post on community health here

82074_01.jpgFor most of us, the point of choosing sustainably grown foods is to protect our own health and to minimize environmental damage. While these are important reasons for making better choices at the grocery store, what about the human side and the health of those who labor in the fields of the world? Can selecting foods that are grown more sustainably with methods such as integrated crop management also be more ethical?

To answer that question, we must start with the number 1.3 billion. That’s how many agricultural laborers there are in the world. Of that number, up to 41 million are affected every year as a result of pesticide poisoning. That means 32% of this group are harmed by the use of pesticides ever year. Continue reading

Using the crop clinic concept to minimize the indiscriminate use of pesticides

Bandara PT, Kulatunga WMDH (2014) Sri Lanka Plant Protection Industry Journal 8, 39-44A recent article in the Sri Lanka Plant Protection Industry Journal highlights how the crop clinic concept in Sri Lanka has promoted effective, judicious use of pesticides. PT Bandara and WMDH Kulatunga describe how the Permanent Crop Clinic Programme (PCCP), established in 2009, provides effective advice that both prevents the destruction of natural enemies due to the use of broad spectrum pesticides, and reduces outbreaks of Chronic Kidney Disease, which has become a major socioeconomic issue due to pesticide residues in food. Access to Pest Management Decision Guides and a knowledge bank of information helps plant doctors to find alternative advice where appropriate for prevention, monitoring and control of crop pests in order to ensure minimal risks to human health and the environment.

Read the full article by clicking on the image or the link below.

Bandara, PT; Kulatunga, WMDH (2014) Using the crop clinic concept to minimize the indiscriminate use of pesticides and promoting effective, judicious pesticide use. Sri Lanka Plant Protection Industry Journal 8: 39-44. CropLife Sri Lanka.

Update: Plant Health News (20 May 15)

One of the illustrations from the pesticide safety guide produced by FAO and ILO (Image: Julien Batandéo)
One of the illustrations from the pesticide safety guide produced by FAO and ILO (Image: Julien Batandéo)

Here’s a taste of some of the latest stories about plant health, including a model for sustainable onion production in India, a new training guide produced by FAO and ILO to protect children form the harmful effects of pesticides and a Chinese agricultural technology company providing support to improve food production in Tanzania.

Click on the link to read more of the latest plant health news!
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Plantwise linking policy to practice

Contributed by Melanie Bateman, CABI Switzerland

Quarantine, then and now

quarantine 1 During the 1400s, it is estimated that one third of Europe’s population died of the plague. In order to slow its spread, some cities adopted radical measures. For example, the Viscount of Reggio, Italy, decreed that anyone sick with the plague should be moved to fields outside the city to either recover or die. The word “quarantine” derives from the Italian word “quarantino”, referring to the 40 day isolation period that ships coming from plague areas had to undergo before entering the Mediterranean port of Ragusa[1].

While the movement of goods and people remains a pathway for the spread of pests and diseases, modern frameworks such as the International Plant Protection Convention have been established in order to promote international cooperation to prevent the spread of pests which cause crop losses and do harm to natural ecosystems. Member countries work together, for example, by identifying potential means for pests to move to new areas (such sea containers or internet sales), and then the member countries agree on approaches to address these issues. For example, International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPMs) have been adopted which provide guidance on surveillance, pest eradication and the establishment of pest free areas.

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One stop shop for information on internationally restricted chemicals

Contributed by Melanie Bateman, CABI Switzerland

mel blogTogether, the three conventions that govern chemicals and hazardous waste safety at the global level (the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions) have launched an online search tool for finding technical and scientific publications to support sound management of chemicals and waste: http://synergies.pops.int/Implementation/Publications/ScientificandTechnicalPublications/tabid/3790/language/en-US/Default.aspx

In particular, the member countries of these Conventions have singled out certain chemicals because of the harm that they can cause to human health and the environment. The online search tool makes it easy to access information on these chemicals, and it brings together information on management and risk reduction across the chemicals’ life cycles. With the click of a button, it is possible to access information on the production, trade, storage, use and safe disposal of these problematic pesticides and other chemicals.