THE NEED OF EFECTIVE, SAVE AND SUSTAINABLE PESTICIDES
The enormous impact of agriculture on Earth
There is no doubt that the agricultural use of pesticides and fertilizers has been the key for the increment of farms productivity in the last century, however, it has come with an environmental impact which solution cannot be delayed any longer.
According to the report World Agriculture: towards 2015/2030, by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), accounts for the major share of human use of land and over two-thirds of human water use is for agriculture. In Asia, the share is four-fifths.
Crop and livestock productions are the main source of water pollution and also the major anthropogenic source of the greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide. They also contribute on a massive scale to other types of air and water pollution. FAO points out that the methods used in both agriculture and forestry are leading causes of loss of the world’s biodiversity. This report goes further, warning the threat of agriculture to its own future through land degradation and salinization.
On the other side, the report states that the use of sustainable production methods could mitigate the effects of agriculture on the environment. Furthermore, agriculture could play the role the important task of reversing the negative effects above mentioned, storing carbon in soils, improving water filtration and preserving rural landscape and biodiversity.
The gradual increase of awareness about urgent matters, such as soil accumulation of toxic products and aquifers pollution, has been essential to encourage society and authorities towards the approval of new laws to regulate the products that may be used in agriculture.
What type of regulation can we find about this matter?
Among the European regulatory elements that directly relate to this matter, it is worth mentioning the Directive 2009/128/EC: Sustainable use of pesticides. Its main goal is achieving sustainable use of pesticides in the EU, reducing the impact on human health and the environment.
In order to accomplish this goal, the directive propose actions such as:
- promote the use of alternative products, especially the so called non chemicals
- regulate the use of pesticides in sites with special risk for aquifers or especially relevant environmentally.
Likewise, it is noteworthy EC No 1107/2009 that regulates the authorization process for plant protection products. One of its major goals is to ensure that market products do not represent any risk for consumers and environment.
We can therefore notice that European regulatory recognizes the risk for both human health and the environment that traditional pesticides represent, and lays the foundations for implementing safer and sustainable alternatives.
In Biomar, we believe that this is the path we need to walk to achieve agricultural practices that allow feeding the planet inhabitants without flooding soils, rivers and oceans with toxic substances that will endure for many years.
One of the strongest alternatives nowadays is the replacement of conventional pesticides obtained by chemical synthesis for the so called biopesticides.
The alternative: biopesticides
Biopesticides are products of natural origin that we could classify as:
- Biological biopesticides, that are living microorganisms
- Biochemical biopesticides, in which the active ingredient is a microbial component, secondary metabolite, extract, etc.
The biopesticides industry records robust annual growths, above 15%. Many large multinational corporations in the agriculture business are extensively working in the development or acquisition of their own biopesticides.
The awareness about the hazardous practices in current crop and livestock productions together with the urgent need of a sustainable economy, has led to the necessary social pressure to force the regulatory breakthrough that is behind the industry growth. However, still stands out the enormous gap between the market share of this products (3% for biopesticides) and synthetic pesticides.
This obvious inequality is partially due to the lower degree of familiarity with biopesticides, as well as the fact that this market is relatively recent and the application initial costs associated to them are still high when compared to traditional methods.
In Biomar we think that in order to reduce substantially environmental agriculture impact, one of the challenges must be to achieve biopesticides able to economically compete with chemical pesticides. Because, even though European regulatory is clearly addressed to reduce this impact, the associated pollution issues are a global problem. Therefore, in cases of absence of regulatory measurements that force the change, the solution ought to be the development of sustainable products that do not interfere with farmer profit.
The discovery and development of sustainable and effective biopesticides is the main line of work of Biomar Microbial Technologies. We started working in this field back in 1999, and since then we have observed that the diversity of our libraries was a potent tool to identify crop protection products.
Besides collaboration with leader companies in the field, we work in the development of our own products that has allowed us to move towards the release of the first products that can answer the demand of effective, profitable and safe biopesticides.
Antonio Fernández Medarde
C.E.O. at Biomar Microbial Technologies
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