- Chemical crop protection products or “pesticides” help control insects, diseases, weeds, fungi and other undesirable pests.
- Pesticides comprise a wide range of products for both professional and home applications including insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, sanitizers, growth regulators, rodenticides, and soil fumigants.
- The use of chemical crop protection in all contexts is highly regulated.
- The regulatory framework of pesticides encompasses national, regional, and international legislation and conventions that help assure safety for users, consumers and the environment.
Chemical crop protection products, commonly referred to as pesticides or agrochemical products, play a vital role in controlling the pests and diseases that threaten our food supply.
Consumers in the developed countries expect to choose from an abundant supply of fresh, high quality foods that meet our nutritional needs, whilst being affordable and accessible all year-round. As with many hallmarks of modern society, we take all of this for granted.
In developing countries chemical crop protection is used as a means to help farmers improve agricultural productivity, contribute to food security and alleviate poverty. Improvement if farmer community livelihoods, and the accompanying social benefits to developing economies have followed.
With the growing global populations constantly challenging food production, crop protection products offer a means towards meeting the challenge of more food, less land.
Food crops must compete with 30,000 species of weeds, 3,000 species of nematodes and 10,000 species of plant-eating insects. We know that despite the use of modern crop protection products 20-40% of potential food production is still lost every year to pests. These losses can occur while the crop is growing in the field, when it is in storage and in the home. In short, an adequate, reliable food supply cannot be guaranteed without the use of crop protection products.
Whilst recognising the important role of pesticides in society, it is important to note that the safety of pesticides for users, consumers, and environmental impact is carefully regulated. Product registrations, permitting sale within a country, are based upon comprehensive safety assessments and defined product uses. Each product has a specific application that is clearly indicated on the label. Whilst these regulatory aspects are carefully considered prior to commercial sale, the lifecycle approach to pesticide management dictates that manufacturers extend their safety considerations through the entire lifespan of the product. This commitment is referred to as “product stewardship.”
Safety considerations pertaining directly to product use include education and training programmes that relay how products can be used safely and efficiently. Whilst avoiding some of the inherent risks of sometimes harmful or toxic chemicals is critical, end-users aware of the hazards and taking the recommended precautions are keen to learn how products can be more effectively applied to increase productivity and save input costs. These two concepts broach the areas of safe/responsible use and integrated pest management.