PESTICIDE NEWS The Journal of Pesticide Action Network UK
An international perspective on the health and environmental effects of pesticides
INSIDE THIS ISSUE Is the UK 'greenwashing' Integrated Pest Management? Sustainable Intensification - can it be sucessful? Secret documents reveal that top EU officials put profit before health Playgrounds contaminated by agricultural pesticide drift
THE UK BATTLE TO DEFINE INTEGRATED PEST MANAGEMENT By Josie Cohen, Head of Policy & Campaigns, PAN UK
are just as important and valid as any other tool or technique.
PAN UK has been campaigning to promote Integrated Pest Management (IPM) as an effective way to reduce pesticide use for decades. We were delighted, therefore, when the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan committed to making IPM ‘central’ to the UK’s post-Brexit approach to agriculture. It appeared that the UK government was finally going to put in place the measures required to assist British farmers to adopt IPM, thereby reversing the current trend of rising pesticide use. However, in reality, it merely signalled a redrawing of the battle lines – having won the argument that IPM must be a key focus for UK farming policy, the debate has now moved on to what exactly IPM is and who gets to define it.
It is this view of IPM that fuels the claim – often touted by pro-pesticide groups – that the majority of farmers in the UK are already using IPM. However, this hides the reality that most conventional farming in the UK continues to rely on pesticides as its first line of defence. The majority of British arable farmers employ only a limited number of IPM methods and are missing out on the benefits from adopting a fully integrated approach. IPM is not one technique but a whole suite of tactics that should be used in a holistic way before, during, and after the growing of a specific crop. In contrast, the UK has up until now adopted a piecemeal approach that cherry picks individual IPM techniques rather than implementing the whole system approach.
IPM is an approach to managing pests, diseases or weeds under which chemical pesticides are used only as a last resort - if at all. It sits in direct contrast to the majority of conventional agriculture in which pesticides tend to be the first weapon of choice for dealing with unwanted organisms. Widely accepted as an effective way of reducing pesticide use, IPM tackles pests and diseases through the use of a combination of different control methods, based on good crop husbandry, physical, plant breeding or biological control methods, underpinned by effective pest, weed and disease monitoring strategies. Properly implemented, IPM systems can effectively deal with harmful pests and diseases whilst maintaining crop yields and farmer income. I was on a call recently with a range of representatives from government, the industrial farming sector and the pesticide industry. I casually mentioned that under IPM systems chemical pesticides are used only as a last resort, thinking that this was universally accepted. However, the other people on the call pushed back against this definition, claiming instead that IPM is actually a broad suite of approaches within which pesticides
If the UK government is serious about its commitment to reduce pesticide use then it must put in place the measures required to drive widespread adoption of genuine IPM systems by British farmers. With strong leadership from Defra, and a realignment of agricultural subsidies and other government support for farmers including training, the UK has the opportunity to become a world leader in non-chemical farming innovation. Alternatively, if we allow pro-pesticide groups to define IPM then we will continue with the current ‘business as usual’ approach in which pesticide use continues to rise while UK biodiversity plummets. IPM in the UK will become just another greenwash, a means for justifying the continued dousing of our countryside in chemicals. PAN UK is working hard to ensure that the UK government introduces measures to help farmers adopt genuine IPM systems. For more detail visit: https://www.pan-uk.org/ipm-and-ukagriculture
Image (including cover): Farmers using Integrated Pest Management techniques in cotton fields in Ethiopia
SUSTAINABLE INTENSIFICATION AND AGROECOLOGICAL PEST MANAGEMENT: WHY IT WORKS FOR ALL FARMERS
By Jules Pretty, Professor of Environment & Society, University of Essex
Sustainable Intensification (SI) comprises agricultural processes or systems where production is maintained or increased while progressing towards substantial enhancement of environmental outcomes. It incorporates these principles without the cultivation of more land and loss of unfarmed habitats, and with increases in system performance that incur no net environmental cost.
The mid-20th century brought agricultural transformation and the ‘Green Revolution’. New crop varieties and livestock breeds, combined with increased use of inorganic fertilizers, manufactured pesticides and machinery, together with better water control and increased field size, which led to a sharp increase in food production worldwide. For each person today, there is 50% more food compared with each person in 1961.
Compatibility of sustainability and intensification was developed in the late 1990s, when intensification had long been synonymous with types of agriculture that resulted in environmental harm. The combination of the two terms was an attempt to indicate that desirable outcomes, such as more food and better ecosystem services, need not be mutually exclusive. Both could be achieved by making better use of land, water, biodiversity, labour, knowledge and technologies. SI thus seeks to develop synergies between agricultural and landscape-wide system components, and is now a priority for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. It can thus be distinguished from earlier manifestations of intensification because of the explicit emphasis on a wider set of environmental as well as socially-progressive outcomes. Central to SI is an acceptance that there will be no perfect end point. No designed system is expected to succeed forever, and no single package of practices is able to fit the dynamics of every ecosystem.
Yet this period of agricultural intensification was accompanied by considerable harm to the environment. It imposed costs on economies and made agricultural systems less efficient by degrading ecosystem goods and services, including the pollution of groundwater and losses of beneficial insects. Concern about these negative effects shifted ideas about how agricultural systems could be more effective at both food production and reductions in harm to the environment. The desire for agriculture to produce more food without environmental harm, and even to make positive contributions to natural and social capital, has been reflected in many calls for more sustainable agriculture. These have variously been evoked as a doubly green revolution, alternative agriculture, evergreen agriculture, agroecological intensification, save and grow, diversified agroecosystems, and sustainable intensification.
of new and improved varieties with changes to agroecological management. They focus on increasing the productivity of the existing cropping systems while maintaining or even improving the environmental conditions. Additive methods require diversification of farms into a range of new crops, livestock or fish that add to the existing staples or vegetables already being cultivated. Examples of additive components range from use of fish ponds or concrete tanks, raised beds and vegetable cultivation, rehabilitation of degraded land, fodder grasses and shrubs for livestock (which can increase milk productivity), new crops or trees brought into rotations with staple crops such as clovers, soyabean, and indigenous trees, to the adoption of short-maturing varieties (e.g. sweet potato, cassava) that permit the cultivation of two crops per year instead of one. This diversity also has the benefit of enhancing resilience to shocks and stresses.
SI uptake is linked to success It is now clear that SI is being taken up by more and more farmers and is being practised on a growing area of farmland. By 2018, it was estimated from these initiatives that in some 100 countries, 163 million farms had crossed an important substitutionredesign threshold using SI methods on an area approaching 453 million ha of agricultural land. This is equivalent to 29% of all farms worldwide and 9% of agricultural land. A key question for any SI system: does it actually generate more food, fibre and other valued products while simultaneously improving natural capital? Uptake of SI will only increase if farmers believe that the approach works. Farmers adopting various SI approaches can increase food outputs by multiplicative or by additive means. Multiplicative approaches improve yields per hectare by combining use
Image: Multiple crops in a field in India
crop pulls stem borer moths from the cereal. It is estimated that 132,000 farmers have adopted push-pull in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia. Positive externalities arise from nitrogen fixation by Desmodium and elimination of pesticides, in the provision of high quality fodder, enabling farmers to diversify into dairy and poultry production, in turn increasing the availability of animal manure for crops and soils.
The importance of redesign Three non-linear stages in transitions towards sustainability have been proposed to occur: efficiency, substitution and redesign. While both efficiency and substitution are important, they are not sufficient for maximizing co-production of favourable agricultural and beneficial environmental outcomes without redesign. While efficiency and substitution tend to be additive and incremental within current production systems, redesign should be the most transformative. Redesign presents social and institutional, as well as agricultural challenges.
Other examples of redesign and deployment of multiple interventions in industrialised countries has seen increased rotational diversity, use of wildflowers for pollinators and other beneficial insects, conservation headlands and trap crops, composted animal manures, and grain legumes, often with large reductions in input use without yield compromise, such as on 750 farms in France. In less-developed countries, fish, crab, turtle and duck have been reintroduced into rice systems, reducing pest and weed incidence, often eliminating the need for pesticides, and thus producing increased system productivity through new animal protein.
A specific application of agroecological principles for redesign is the push-pull systems for Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which is yielding notable successes from the redesign of monocropped maize, millet and sorghum systems in East Africa. Interplanting of the legume forage Desmodium suppresses Striga and repels stem borer adults while attracting natural enemies; planting Napier grass as a border
Although the mealybug’s preferred host is papaya, it has now adapted to mulberry, cassava, tomato and eggplant. Each geographic spread, each shift of host, requires redesign of local agricultural systems, and rapid responses from research and extension services. Such new pests and diseases may also impact crop pollinators, as illustrated by host shifts and the anthropogenic spread of bee parasites (e.g. Varroa mites) and pathogens (e.g. Nosema ceranae).
Why redesign must happen, over and over Redesign is critical as responses are needed to ecological, economic, social and political change across whole landscapes. Agroecosystems cannot be static, they must adapt and evolve not only to continue to provide food and fibre, but also to deliver a range of ecosystem services, such as water and soil conservation, soil carbon storage, nutrient recycling and pest control. The rapidly changing nature of pest, disease and weed threats illustrates the continuing challenge to respond with agility. New pests and diseases can suddenly emerge because of resistance to pesticides, which can then lead to secondary pest outbreaks owing to pesticide overuse. Climate change has facilitated invasions of pests and pathogens, and there is the accidental long-distance transfer of organisms as well as longdistance trade (e.g. of bees, pets, plants). Wheat blast fungus (Magnaporthe oryzae) has recently emerged as a crop pathogen in Bangladesh (2016), and the Fall Army Worm (Spodoptera frugiperda) is spreading across sub-Saharan Africa (2017). The papaya mealybug (Paracoccus marginatus) is native to Mexico but spread to the Caribbean in 1994, then to Pacific islands by 2002, Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka by 2008, and is currently found in West Africa.
Old pests can also return. The brown planthopper (BPH) has been called the “ghost of green revolutions past”. It was the primary threat to rice in the 1960s, yet it has resurfaced as a major pest threat in the 2000s owing to resistance to insecticides coupled with the heavy use of nitrogen fertilizers. BPH outbreaks are often triggered by overuse of insecticides, which reinforces farmers’ fears of insect pests, provoking in them the wish to apply more. In China, between 6-9 Mha were infested with BPH in 2005-07, up from 2 Mha in the 1990s. Farmers in China apply on average 180 kg N/ha to rice as fertilizer, and N-enriched plants are known to enhance size, performance and abundance of herbivorous pests.
Image: Wildflowers planted for pollinators
IPM increases yields and reduces pesticide use
in Asia and Africa implemented over a 25year period (1990-2014) further illustrated the potential for productivity improvement and substantial reductions in pesticide costs. Overall mean yields increased by 41%, and pesticide use declined to 31% of prior use (Figure 1). Compared with the benchmark pre-project point, 30% of the crop combinations resulted in a transition to zero pesticide use.
Pest management exemplifies the need for continuing active intervention for SI: the job is never done. One approach â€“ Integrated Pest Management (IPM) â€“ is a common element of many SI programs. IPM consists of a toolbox of interventions, combining the use of targeted compounds with agronomic and biological techniques to control different classes of crop pests. Complementary and alternative modes of pest control exploiting specificities in pest ecologies have been gaining increasing attention. The use of onand off-farm biodiversity is key in IPM as biodiverse agroecosystems experience less pest damage and have more natural pest enemies than non-biodiverse ones. At the same time, both social and human capital are important for successful outcomes. IPM is knowledge-intensive. Successful IPM farmers need to monitor pests and natural enemies, understand thresholds for decisions and be competent in the deployment of a range of different methods. These characteristics mean IPM approaches fit in especially well with SI projects which focus on redesign.
While pesticide reductions with IPM should be expected, explanations for yield increases induced by IPM are more complex. IPM may, for example, reduce the incidence of severe-loss years, although yield increases in a normal year may not be evident, but mean production does increase across years. Many IPM projects involve interventions focused on more than just pest management. For example, they may involve a significant component of farmer training (e.g., through farmer field schools: FFS), in which case farmersâ€™ capabilities at innovating in several areas of their agroecosystems may have also increased, such as in soil and water management. Farmer training through FFS has resulted in greater and continuing innovation, with positive outcomes for both productivity and environmental services.
Importantly, SI-IPM has repeatedly been shown to reduce pesticide use and increase yields. One study analysed 286 projects in 57 countries, and a later one assessed 40 projects in 20 African countries. In both, several million farmers on tens of Mha had adopted practices that had led to yield increases of 79% (study 1) and 113% (study 2). The timescale for these improvements varied from three to ten years. A further analysis of 85 IPM projects from 24 countries
of agro-ecosystems around SI can achieve both yield increases and resilience. The evidence from farms of redesign and transformations towards SI offers scope for optimism. A full transition from increased efficiency through substitution to redesign will be essential. The concept and practice embodied in the SI model of agriculture will be a process of adaptation, driven by a wide range of actors cooperating in new agricultural knowledge economies.
Conclusion There are arguments from some quarters that we would not need to increase agricultural production if less food were wasted, and less energetically-inefficient meat consumed by the affluent. These would help, but there is no magic wand of redistribution. Most if not all farmers need to raise yields while improving environmental services. As the evidence shows, redesign
Jules Pretty is Professor of Environment & Society at the University of Essex. His sole-authored books include The East Country (2017), The Edge of Extinction (2014), This Luminous Coast (2011, 2014), The Earth Only Endures (2007), Agri-Culture (2002) and Regenerating Agriculture (1995). He is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology and the Royal Society of Arts, former Deputy-Chair of the government’s Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment, and has served on advisory committees for BBSRC and the Royal Society. He was presenter of the 1999 BBC Radio 4 series Ploughing Eden, a contributor and writer for the 2001 BBC TV Correspondent programme The Magic Bean, and a panellist in 2007 for Radio 4’s The Moral Maze. He received a 1997 award from the Indian Ecological Society, was appointed A D White Professor-at-Large by Cornell University from 2001, and is Chief & Founding Editor of the International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability. He received an OBE in 2006 for services to sustainable agriculture, an honorary degree from Ohio State University in 2009, and the British Science Association Presidential Medal (Agriculture and Food) in 2015. This Luminous Coast was winner of New Angle Prize for Literature in 2013, and The East Country was winner of the East Anglian book of the year in 2018.
References Pretty J, Benton T G, Bharucha Z P, Dicks L, Butler Flora C, Hartley S, Lampkin N, Morris C, Pierzynski G, Prasad P V V, Reganold J, Rockström J, Smith P, Thorne P and Wratten S.2018. Global Assessment of Agricultural System Redesign for Sustainable Intensification. Nature Sustainability 1, 441-446
Pretty J. 2018. Intensification for redesigned and sustainable agricultural systems. Science 362, eaav0294
SECRET DOCUMENTS REVEAL THAT TOP EU OFFICIALS FOUGHT FOR HIGHER PESTICIDE EXPOSURE After a two year legal battle, PAN Europe recently obtained over 600 documents showing that top EU officials tried to protect chemical and farming interests from European rules that were expected to ban up to 32 endocrine disrupting pesticides (EDCs). A law, set out specifically to protect human health, animal health, and the environment, followed 25 years of mounting scientific evidence linking EDCs to severe human health impacts and sex-altering effects on animals.
According to PAN Europe, the ‘hazardsbased’ principle was under attack. Unique to Europe, any pesticide found to be either EDC, carcinogenic, mutagenic, reprotoxic, persistent or bioaccumulative, even at very low doses, will be quickly banned throughout Europe using this approach. This has led to rejected food imports and trade friction with regions with weaker protections. The endocrine criteria were finally published on 19 April 2018, five years overdue. Eight of the 32 pesticides have been withdrawn for reasons other than EDC, none have been banned, and few will be.
The papers, released by order of the European Court of Justice, show an internal struggle to define scientific criteria for identifying and banning EDC pesticides. Outnumbered environment and research department officials are seen resisting attempts by agriculture, enterprise, industry and even health department officials to water down the criteria by introducing non-scientific factors, such as farming profitability. The Commission's secretary general also orchestrated a flawed impact assessment process. Its early results downplayed health impacts; found that the more pesticides that remained in use, the less the impact on health and the environment; and that the fewer EDC pesticides identified, the better. The two year row was brought to an end with a ruling that non-scientific aspects should play no part in the setting of EDC criteria and that the impact assessment was illegal.
Hans Muilerman, PAN Europe: “It took us years to get these documents. They did everything they could to keep them secret. How can health officials try and twist a law designed to protect people into something that does the opposite, on behalf of industries causing serious illnesses? We think they want to see a globalised farming system in the mould of Monsanto, free of meaningful regulations." In the decade leading up to 2019, the number of EU approved pesticides doubled to about 500. A 2012 UNEP/WHO report suggests endocrine-related diseases are rising globally, with chemical exposure playing an important role. Find full details and the released papers here: https://www. pan-europe.info/press-releases/2019/05/ top-eu-officials-fought-higher-pesticideexposure-secret-documents-show
AGRICULTURAL PESTICIDE DRIFT CONTAMINATES CHILDREN’S PLAYGROUNDS Fruit and wine production is among the agricultural sectors with the highest pesticide applications. Yet, the extent to which such public places are affected by pesticide drift from agricultural fields is largely unknown. In the first study of its kind, 71 public playgrounds in South Tyrol (Italy) were tested for pesticide contamination. Nearly half of the investigated playgrounds were found to be contaminated with pesticides. In total, 12 pesticides were found. The findings are especially worrying as 92% of the detected pesticides are considered to be ‘hormone-active’ (part of the family of chemicals with endocrine disrupting properties).
people reading our study will respond that it is not relevant if grass samples are contaminated with pesticides because children do not eat grass”, comments Peter Clausing, coauthor and toxicologist of the PAN Germany. “However, the discovery that 92% of the pesticides found are considered to be endocrine-active substances should worry us. These substances can alter early development, which is an especially sensitive phase for children. Exposure to such endocrine disruptors can have longterm detrimental effects, and could possibly cause cancer, impaired brain functions, obesity and diabetes”, explains Clausing. Assessments of pesticide drift need to become more realistic
Pesticides which are applied on agricultural fields to fight pestiferous insects, weeds or pathogenic fungi can easily be volatilised, drift away with winds or washed away by rain. While agricultural products are regularly monitored for possible pesticides residues, no monitoring is established for public areas or private gardens.
“Our analyses also showed that the measured pesticide concentrations were higher in playgrounds located closer to the orchards. Furthermore, weather conditions such as rainfall and stronger winds were also related to higher pesticide concentrations” as explained by Linhart. The results of the study also show that the distance between playgrounds and agricultural areas should be of at least 100m, in order to avoid pesticide contamination as much as possible. However, through stronger wind conditions pesticides could drift over 300m away and possibly even further.
Investigations on playgrounds in four agricultural regions 71 public playgrounds in the four South Tyrolean regions (Venosta valley, Adige valley, Low Adige, Isarco valley) were randomly selected and grass samples were analysed for potential contamination by 315 pesticides.
The researchers call for a comprehensive pesticide monitoring system in public places embedded in agricultural areas with intensive pesticide use. We call for pesticides to finally be banned, rather than ‘seriously limited’ in public areas.” Hertoge concludes.
“The unique aspect of our study was not only the determination of pesticide residues, but also the analysis of underlying factors. Hence, we wanted to find out whether the distance from the next apple orchard or vineyard, wind direction and speed, or solar irradiance, has an influence on potential pesticide contamination”, specifies the first author of the study, Caroline Linhart.
Source: Linhart C. et al. (2019) Pesticide contamination and associated risk factors at public playgrounds near intensively managed apple and wine orchards. Environmental Sciences Europe. https://enveurope.springeropen.com/ articles/10.1186/s12302-019-0206-0
Nearly all detected pesticides considered hormone-active “In total, we found 12 different pesticides in the playgrounds. I can imagine that
MEET OUR NEW ASSISTANT CAMPAIGNER Hannah Conway joined PAN UK in April 2019. She studied Politics and International Relations before going on to work in the office of Green MEP Molly Scott Cato on the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, where much of her work was centred around reducing the use of pesticides, promoting the value of ecology and tackling the influence of the agrochemicals industry in the EU. Hannah has also interned for Progressio and CAFOD, where she focused on issues around social and environmental justice. Hannah is the main contact for our Pesticide-Free Towns campaigners so do get in touch if you're keen to start a campaign in your area.
BIOPESTICIDE SUMMIT 2019 PAN UK will be speaking at the Biopesticide Summit at Swansea University on the 2nd/3rd July 2019. The Summit will be welcoming guests and speakers from more than 20 countries to discuss solutions to the challenges facing us as we seek alternatives to a growing reliance on harmful chemical pesticides. Find full details here: https://biopesticidesummit.com
Who are Pesticide Action Network UK?
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We work tirelessly to apply pressure to governments, regulators, policy makers, industry and retailers to reduce the impacts of harmful pesticides to both human health and the environment.
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