Trends in pesticide use in agriculture.
Many of the ideas in the book of Rachel Carson (1962) are compatible with the strategy of integrate pest and disease managment (IPM)and the policy to reduce the chemical pesticide use adopted mainly in EU –USA and internationally.
Professor Lynn Epstein 1 has published “Fifty years since Silent Spring” in Annual Review of Phytopathology 2 (2014) 52:377-402. It is an interesting review that shows the evolution in pesticide use /regulatory changes on agriculture from 1962 to 2012-13 with the background of the claims on the book written by Rachel Carson3 in 1962. In this review article, L. Epstein shows through different examples the compatibility of many of the ideas from this book with the current strategies of the integrated pest management (IPM) adopted internationally and mostly in EU.
It was not easy for R. Carson to implement her ideas and as L. Epstein says “the pesticide enthusiasts and pesticide sceptics have remained for the past 50 years”. The legacy of R. Carson and her worries about the effect of indiscriminate and excessive use of some agricultural chemicals has been and it is important nowadays.
However along these years the negative impact of some pesticides on air, soil and water pollution as well as their toxicity on human and animal health has been documented and evaluated by many scientific studies, some of them documented in this review article. Despite the continued use of chemical pesticides, the percentage of crop loss has remained relatively constant. With few exceptions, history has demonstrated that R. Carson was right about the negative consequences of many agrochemical products.
L. Epstein documents and reviews the history of the most used in United Statesherbicides, fungicides, insecticides, etc. The fumigant methyl bromide (MB) was slated internationally for discontinue use by 2005 by the Montreal Protocol because of its ozone-depleting compound. Since then the worldwide annual MB is in continue decrease. According the information of L. Epstein in United States, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have cancelled pesticide registrations for safety issues and public concerns, as example by 1996 the EPA slated to ban 80 pesticides, in 2013, 27 from 49 organophosphate pesticides (55% of registered) were banned and also many of those have a restricted use. In 1999 the manufacturer voluntary cancelled the registration of triazine herbicide cyanazine followed EPA reviewed data and in 2015 the manufacturer agreed to discontinue manufacturing carbamate insecticide aldicarb. Other pesticides with endocrine disrupting effects are also priority for EPA to review. According L. Epstein, Europe has been more proactive about banning pesticides than the United States.
In the XXI century, sustainable agriculture requires effective strategies minimizing pesticide use and risk and integrated pest management (IPM) is presented as an alternative. For L. Epstein, disease forecast and biological control should be reinforced by plant breeding (molecular and traditional), more research and extension should be done to fully realized IPM and pointed the importance of the discovery of new pesticides with fewer negative externalities. For the author, it is important to determine the health and environmental costs of what is now considered appropriate levels of pesticide use. Along the review she shows worries about the pesticide use in the global south countries.
In fact, in Europe through the Directive 91/414/CEE and further Regulation CE 1107/2009 the authorized pesticides were reviewed and their use harmonized in the EU countries. Near 70% of active ingredients have been banned from market, along this evaluation.
Directive 2009/128 CEE stablishes a framework for community action to achieve a sustainable use of pesticides taking account of precautionary and preventive approaches. The aim is: “to reduce the risks and impacts of pesticide use on human health and the environment and encourage the development and introduction of IPM and of alternative approaches or techniques in order to reduce dependency on the use of pesticides”. The Member States are encouraged for both: “initial and additional training for distributor, advisor and professional users of pesticides” under the framework of Regulation EC 1698/2005.
Mª Isabel Trillas Gay,
Professor Titular in the Plant Biology Department at the University of Barcelona. Barcelona. Spain.
1 L. Epstein, she is Professor in the Biology Department at the University of California Davis. California USA.
2 Annual Review of Phytopathology is a scientific publication since 1963 that covers significant development in the field of plant pathology. http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev-phyto-102313-045900.
3 Rachel Carson (1907 – 1964). She was a Master’s degree in zoology from Hopkins University in 1932. She was employed with US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) from 1936 to 1952. In 1951 she wrote the book “The sea around us” that was a bestseller that got the National Book Award for nonfiction. In 1962 she wrote “Silent Spring”.