Biopesticides to Replace Chemical Pesticides

Chemicals still preferred although viable biological alternatives exist

The issue of the pressure related to the reduction of chemical pesticides exerted by regular farming product consumers on both farmers and markets remains unanswered, as a recent UK study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) shows. Given the premises and resources, the usage of biological counterparts is much lower than expected.

Although supermarkets banned the use of some previously approved chemical pesticides, average consumers still worry about using the fruits and vegetables obtained via the still accepted ones, which may cause a decrease in health levels in the long run. Using these can also threaten the health of the farmers and pollute the groundwater as a side effect. As professor Wyn Grant from the University of Warwick explains, "It is evident that biopesticides have a potentially important contribution to make to a competitive agriculture industry. They have the potential to increase consumer confidence in fruit and vegetables whilst moving away from a polarised and over-simplified choice between conventional and organic modes of production."

The biological alternatives, which include natural fungi, viruses or bacteria, provide a large series of features that tilt the balance in their favor, when compared to the chemical pesticides. As such, they are used in the same way, with no further effort, they are cheaper to grow, they don't have a negative influence on other organisms but address a wider spectrum of pests and harmful insects instead, and they don't have a detrimental ecological impact by decaying into toxic residues. There are some disadvantages, to be honest, like their reduced effectiveness over a shorter term of activity, but these are thwarted by their usefulness.

The study demonstrates that the problem of not fully embracing the biopesticide approach lies in the low reciprocal recognition between the member states of the EU, which prevents the market scale success of the small producing companies. "The absence of a Europe-wide market for biopesticides is a significant obstacle to their wider commercial availability," state the experts. As they explain in their study, the newly-developed chemical formulas could increase the storage ability and efficiency of the biopesticides, while the costs, risks and results of implementing this new approach should be commonly shared by manufacturers, government and consumers.

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