By Giulia Di Tommaso
One-third of global crop production is lost to pests, diseases and weeds — and that could double without the use of crop protection products like pesticides, including highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs), which farmers can use when no effective alternatives exist. CropLife International’s members support the International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) and are major stakeholders in the evolving conversation on HHPs.
Although a pesticide is categorized as hazardous, it does not mean its use should be banned. It can still be effectively used by farmers if, based on local safety assessments, it is proven safe and not to pose a non-manageable risk to human health and the environment. CropLife International members are especially aware that consideration of local use context is especially relevant in low income countries. The crop protection industry supports several product stewardship and capacity-building initiatives, including farmer trainings and the implementation of Integrated Pest Management as well as identifying ways to continuously reduce risks.
In 2016, our members conducted a voluntary portfolio review of their own products which resulted in some products being withdrawn from the market. This review was based on the eight criteria the FAO and WHO established to determine an HHP; these criteria are widely recognized and agreed upon by the Joint Meeting of Pesticide Management in 2016. Of the 6,400 crop protection products that were evaluated, the vast majority were not found to be HHPs; only 15% were identified as HHPs, of which 10% can be used safely and responsibly. The remaining 5% required either additional risk mitigation measures (such as label or formulation changes) or withdrawal from certain uses or countries.
CropLife International and its members are proud of the work they do to enhance the quality and quantity of the global food supply through a wide range of products and practices. Our efforts have played an integral role in controlling the pandemic effects of disasters ranging from the current locust swarms in Africa, ongoing outbreak of Fall Armyworm in Latin America and Asia, and challenges associated with controlling the Zika virus.
To that end, we have and will continue to work closely with colleagues in the plant science industry as well as governments, multilateral institutions and NGOs to engage in an open and balanced discussion that considers the reality on the ground facing farmers. Only through collaboration and engagement can we develop innovative solutions for pest, weed and disease management that protect crop yields to provide food security to a growing population as well as to protect our health and our environment. Ultimately, this will all contribute to making more sustainable global food systems.
Giulia Di Tommaso is president and CEO of CropLife International in Brussels, Belgium.