Strict EU regulations 'adds pressure to farmers'

The Adapt Low Carbon Group, an innovation management consultancy and investor, has won funding for a project to progress the development of a novel plant-based pesticide for use in the control of agricultural crop pests.

Across the world, pests are becoming a growing problem for farmers and growers costing billions a year to control. In the US alone, it is estimated that the use of chemicals to control pests incurs annual costs associated with human poisoning, loss of beneficial organisms and impact on bees of $1.2bn, $520m and $283m respectively.

Research has also shown that more than 3,000 pest species have developed resistance to at least 300 types of insecticide ingredients.

Adapt, AlphaBio Control, Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera) and ApresLabs have joined forces to carry out research and to develop a natural product that can help address the issues of resistance in pest populations.

Key to this development is that the new product will be used with conventional insecticides and enhance their effectiveness while at the same time reduce the amount of synthetic chemicals applied in agriculture and horticulture. An important benefit of this innovation will be a reduction in the environmental impact of insecticides. Adapt will investigate market demand and undertake an economic analysis of the new product which will help to successfully launch it.

The global pesticide market was worth approximately $53bn in 2012 of which circa $15bn is accounted for by insecticides sales. The pesticide market is expected to reach $65bn in 2017.

Biorenewables expert Dr Liliya Serazetdinova at Adapt, said: “With the impact of the new EU regulations now having a real effect on the sector, it’s timely to embrace this as an opportunity to develop new products and also invest in innovative ideas.

“There’s increased pressure to minimise the amount of pesticides used in agriculture and to reduce soil and water contamination. The industry has spent decades researching more sustainable ways to control pests yet remains heavily reliant on synthetic insecticides. The combination of a decline in the number of active ingredients available to growers and the increased development of resistance, requires the agrochemical industry to come up with sustainable solutions rapidly that will be effective as well as environmentally friendly.”

Iain Fleming, Managing Director and co-founder of AlphaBio Control said: “It’s clear from the grower organisations we do business with across Europe that effective low impact solutions are top of the list of what growers are looking for. This project represents an exciting opportunity to work with a number of very talented people in bringing forward innovative solutions for modern agriculture.”

Stricter pesticide rules add pressure for farmers

This news comes at a time when more stringent pest control regulations are being debated in the European Commission and at Westminster. Recent legislative announcements have included the publication in January 2015 of a list of 77 active ingredients to be considered as candidates for substitution. Products containing any of the listed active ingredients must be subjected to comparative assessment and withdrawn if significantly safer alternatives are available.

This means that many currently used commercial pesticide formulations will be withdrawn from the market which will put farmers and growers in a very difficult situation to control pests. It will also put agrochemical companies under major pressure to make changes rapidly and use more natural products.