“Toward pesticidovigilance” Slams Lack of Global Pesticide Regulation

“(T)he effects of dosing whole landscapes with chemicals have been largely ignored by regulatory systems. This can and should be changed.”

photo “Spray” by Will Fuller (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

That’s according to a damning new article in the prestigious journal Science, published today and written by  Alice M. Milner and Ian L. Boyd. Boyd is the chief scientific adviser to the UK government at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, while Milner is also seconded at the Department. Neither were writing on behalf of the Department in this article.

Emphasising the under-considered area of long term broad environmental effects, the pair also pointed out that “without knowledge of safe environmental limits, the total pesticides used—and therefore the total environmental dose—is governed by market demand rather than by a limit on what the environment can endure”.

These two quotes point to the core of their concerns – the lack of “effective global governance of pesticides and their use”, which is large scale, long term, and causes causes verifiable harm to the living world.

So  while standard toxicity tests are carried out on individual pesticides this is of “limited use” when considering wide, “diffuse environmental effects that arise from ecosystem connectivity at a landscape scale”.

They are worried about the lack of organisation and consistency in how pesticides are controlled and managed globally.

Both the OECD Agricultural Pesticide Programme and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management are cited as attempts at harmonisation of standards, but neither are binding. Moreover, “developing countries often lack the expertise to assess this evidence and have lower standards of implementation and enforcement”.

Instead, they cite procedures in pharmaceuticals as a superior model for substance management which could be replicated by pesticide regulators.

“Pesticidovigilance” they suggest should learn from “pharmacovigilance”— which “involves the collection, detection, assessment, monitoring, and prevention of adverse effects of pharmaceutical products” and involves a four stage process which “continues throughout the lifetime of each product, building a well-developed safety database for that product.”

Pesticides are nevertheless “an important component of intensive agriculture and, therefore, of global food production”. And while it is the case that “when used at industrial scales, pesticides can harm the environment”, there is, nevertheless, “a trade-off between this effect and the need to produce food”.

“Agricultural systems need time to adapt, and regulation can help to make the use of a pesticide more proportionate to the trade-off between costs and benefits” they add.

Oliver Moore
About Oliver Moore 188 Articles
DR. Oliver Moore is the communications director and editor-in-chief with ARC2020. He has a PhD in the sociology of farming and food, where he specialised in organics and direct sales. He is published in the International Journal of Consumer Studies, International Journal of Agricultural Resources, Governance and Ecology and the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development. A weekly columnist and contributor with Irish Examiner, he is a regular on Countrywide (Irish farm radio show on the national broadcaster RTE 1) and engages in other communications work around agri-food and rural issues, such as with the soil, permaculture, climate change adaptation and citizen science initiative Grow Observatory . He lectures part time in the Centre for Co-operative Studies UCC                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Oliver voyage beaucoup moins qu’auparavant, pour ce qui concerne son activitĂ© professionnelle. Il peut nĂ©anmoins admirer par la fenĂŞtre de son bureau les mĂ©sanges charbonnières et les corbeaux perchĂ©s au sommet du saule dans le jardin de sa maison au cĹ“ur de l’écovillage de Cloughjordan, en Irlande. L’écovillage est un site de 67 acres dans le nord du Tipperary. Il comprend d’espaces boisĂ©s, des paysages comestibles, des lieux de vie, d’habitation et de travail, ainsi qu’une ferme appartenant Ă  la communautĂ©. Les jours oĂą il travaille dans le bureau du centre d’entreprise communautaire, il profite d’une vue sur les chevaux, les panneaux solaires, les toilettes sèches et les jardins familiaux.  Ce bureau au sein de l’écovillage constitue en effet un tiers-lieu de travail accueillant Ă©galement des collaborateurs des associations Cultivate et Ecolise, ainsi qu’un laboratoire de fabrication (« fab lab »).  Oliver est membre du conseil d’administration de la ferme communautaire (pour la seconde fois !) et donne Ă©galement des cours sur le Master en coopĂ©ratives, agroalimentaire et dĂ©veloppement durable Ă  l’University College Cork. Il a une formation en sociologie rurale : son doctorat et les articles qu’il publie dans des journaux scientifiques portent sur ce domaine au sens large. Il consacre la majoritĂ© de son temps de travail Ă  l’ARC 2020. Il collabore avec ARC depuis 2013, date Ă  laquelle l’Irlande a assurĂ© la prĂ©sidence de l’UE pendant six mois. C’est lĂ  qu’il a pu constater l’importance de la politique agroalimentaire et rurale grâce Ă  sa chronique hebdomadaire sur le site d’ARC. Après six mois, il est nommĂ© rĂ©dacteur en chef et responsable de la communication, poste qu’il occupe toujours aujourd’hui. Oliver supervise le contenu du site web et des mĂ©dias sociaux, aide Ă  dĂ©finir l’orientation de l’organisation et parfois mĂŞme rĂ©dige un article pour le site web.  Ă€ l’époque oĂą on voyageait davantage, il a eu la chance de passer du temps sous les tropiques, oĂą il a aidĂ© des ONG irlandaises de commerce Ă©quitable – au Ghana, au Kenya, au Mali, en Inde et au Salvador – Ă  raconter leur histoire.  Il se peut que ces jours-lĂ  reviennent. Pour son compte Oliver continuera de prĂ©fĂ©rer naviguer en Europe par bateau, puis en train. Après tout, la France n’est qu’à une nuit de navigation. En attendant, il y a toujours de nombreuses possibilitĂ©s de bĂ©nĂ©volat dans la communautĂ© dans les campagnes du centre de l’Irlande.