Conclusions and Recommendations
The National Research Council charged this committee with providing insight and information on the future of chemical pesticide use in United States agriculture. The committee was charged to:
Identify the circumstances under which chemical pesticides may be required in future pest management.
Determine what types of chemical products are the most appropriate tools for ecologically based pest management.
Explore the most promising opportunities to increase benefits and reduce health and environmental risks of pesticide use.
Recommend an appropriate role for the public sector in research, product development, product testing and registration, implementation of pesticide use strategies, and public education about pesticides.
The scope of the study was to encompass pesticide use in production systems—processing, storage, and transportation of field crops, fruits, vegetables, ornamentals, fiber (including forest products), livestock, and the products of aquaculture. Pests to be considered included weeds, pathogens, and vertebrate and invertebrate organisms that must normally be managed to protect crops, livestock, and urban ecosystems. All aspects of pesticide research were to be considered—identification of pest behavior in the ecosystem, pest biochemistry and physiology, resistance management, impacts of pesticides on economic systems, and so on.
Because its task was so broad and it had a relatively short period for its study, the committee met five times over 11 months in 1998 and held
three workshops to seek input from the public. A critical early challenge was to refine the charge. The committee defined the future of agriculture to be the next 10–20 years. Beyond 20 years, it was felt that predicting technological innovations and their effects is extremely difficult. For example, it would have been extremely prescient for someone to predict in 1979 that within 20 years transgenic varieties would constitute upwards of 25% of all planted acreage of some crops. A 20-year span apparently is also sufficient for adverse unexpected effects of technology to manifest themselves. In the case, for example, of the chlorinated hydrocarbons, widespread use beginning in the early 1950s culminated in regulatory restrictions in the early 1970s (Chapter 2).
The committee also felt that the term pesticide required a more precise definition for the purpose of its report. The legal definition, set forth in the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), is in part inconsistent with biological definitions of pesticides. The definition also has social aspects; public perceptions color related policy discussions and decisions (Chapter 2). Accordingly, the committee took a broad view of pesticide, including the strict legal definition, but also including microbial pesticides, plant metabolites, and agents used in veterinary medicine to control insect and nematode pests (Chapter 2).
With respect to the first charge—to identify circumstances in which chemical pesticides will continue to be needed in pest management—the committee decided early during its deliberations that an assessment of the full range of agricultural pests and of the composition and deployment of chemical pesticides to control pests in various environments would be an impossible task because of the large volume of data and the number of analyses required to generate a credible evaluation. The committee reviewed the literature and received expert testimony on the potential effects of pesticides on productivity, environment, and human health (Chapter 2) and on the potential to reduce overall risks by improving IPM approaches that use chemicals under diverse conditions—soils, crops, climates, and farm-management practices. The committee concluded that uses and potential effects of chemical pesticides and alternatives to improve pest management vary considerably among ecosystems. That conclusion was reinforced by expanded solicitation of expert opinion (Chapter 5). Overall, the committee concluded that chemical pesticides will continue to play a role in pest management for the foreseeable future, in part because environmental compatibility of products is increasing —particularly with the growing proportion of reduced-risk pesticides being registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ( Chapter 4), and in part because competitive alternatives are not universally available. In many situations, the benefits of pesticide use are high relative to risks or there are no practical alternatives.
With respect to the second charge—to determine the types of chemical products that are most appropriate for ecologically based pest management—the committee concluded that societal concerns, scientific advances, and regulatory pressures have driven and continue to drive some of the more hazardous products from the marketplace. Synthetic organic insecticides traditionally associated with broad nontarget effects, with potentially hazardous residues, and with exposure risks to applicators are expected to occupy a decreasing market share (Chapter 3). This trend has been promoted by regulatory changes that restricted use of older chemicals and by technological changes that lead to competitive alternative products (Chapter 3 and Chapter 4). Many products registered in the last decade have safer properties and smaller environmental impacts than older synthetic organic pesticides (Chapter 4). The novel chemical products that will dominate in the near future will most likely have a very different genesis from traditional synthetic organic insecticides; the number and diversity of biological sources will increase, and products that originate in chemistry laboratories will be designed with particular target sites or modes of action in mind (Chapter 4). Innovations in pesticide-delivery systems (notably, in plants) promise to reduce adverse environmental impacts even further but are not expected to eliminate them.
The committee recognized, however, that the new products share many of the problems that have been presented by traditional synthetic organic insecticides. For example, there is no evidence that any of the new chemical and biotechnology products are completely free of the classic problems of resistance acquisition, nontarget effects, and residue exposure. Genetically engineered organisms that reduce pest pressure constitute a “new generation” of pest-management tools, but genetically engineered crops that express a control chemical can exert strong selection for resistance in pests (Chapter 4). Similarly, genetically engineered crops that depend upon the concomitant use of a single chemical pesticide with a mode of action similar to that of the transgenically expressed trait could increase the development of pest resistance to the chemical. Moreover, adverse environmental impacts are still considerations (Losey et al., 1999). A recent study, for example, has revealed that a variety of transgenic Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn has been found to release Bt toxins into the soils via root exudates (Saxena et al. 1999). Thus, the use of transgenic crops will probably maintain, or even increase, the need for effective resistance-management programs, novel genes that protect crops, chemicals with new modes of action and nonpesticide management techniques.
There remains a need for new chemicals that are compatible with ecologically based pest management and applicator and worker safety. Food residues have been addressed in previous National Research Council reports (for example, Pesticides in the Diets of Infants and Children,
NRC 1993), but applicator and worker safety remains a concern for this committee.
Recommendation 1. There is no justification for completely abandoning chemicals per se as components in the defensive toolbox used for managing pests. The committee recommends maintaining a diversity of tools for maximizing flexibility, precision, and stability of pest management.
No single pest-management strategy will work reliably in all managed or natural ecosystems. Indeed, such “magic bullet” fantasies have historically contributed to overuse and resistance problems (Chapter 2). Chemical pesticides should not automatically be given the highest priority. Whether they should be considered tools of last resort depends on features of the particular system in which pest management is being used (for example, agriculture, forest, or household) and on the degree of exposure of humans and nontarget organisms. Pesticides should be evaluated in conjunction with all other alternative management practices not only with respect to efficacy, cost, and ease of implementation but also with respect to long-term sustainability, environmental impact, and health.
With regard to the second charge—identifying what types of chemical products will be required in specific managed ecosystems or localities in which particular chemical products will continue to be required—the committee decided that there is too much variability within and among systems to provide coherent and consistent recommendations. Differences among managed and natural ecosystems in biological factors, such as pest pressure, and in economic factors, such as profitability, make generalizations about particular products of little value. Indeed, generalizing across systems as to the necessity of pesticides is responsible in part for many concerns and conflicts of opinion.
As for the third charge—to identify the most promising opportunities for increasing benefits of and reducing risks posed by pesticide use—the committee identified these:
Make research investments and policy changes that emphasize development of pesticides and application technologies that pose reduced health risks and are compatible with ecologically based pest management.
Promote scientific and social initiatives to make development and use of alternatives to pesticides more competitive in a wide variety of managed and natural ecosystems.
Increase the ability and motivation of agricultural workers to lessen
their exposure to potentially harmful chemicals and refine worker-protection regulations and enforce compliance with them.
Reduce adverse off-target effects by judicious choice of chemical agents, implementation of precision application technology and determination of economic- and environmental-impact thresholds for pesticide use in more agricultural systems.
Reduce the overall environmental impact of the agricultural enterprise.
The most promising opportunity for increasing benefits and reducing risks is to invest time, money, and effort into developing a diverse toolbox of pest-management strategies that include safe products and practices that integrate chemical approaches into an overall, ecologically based framework to optimize sustainable production, environmental quality, and human health.
With respect to the fourth charge—recommending an appropriate role for the public sector in research, product development, product testing and registration, implementation of pesticide use strategies, and public education about pesticides —the committee agreed that specific policy actions in research, education, regulation, and management can enhance the likelihood that the opportunity for public-sector contributions is not missed.
Research topics that should be targeted by the public sector include
Pest biology and ecology.
Integration of several pest-management tools in managed and natural ecosystems.
Targeted applications of pesticides.
Risk perception and risk assessment of pesticides and their alternatives.
Economic and social impacts of pesticide use.
TRADEOFFS IN PESTICIDE DECISION-MAKING
Members of a society differ in their evaluation of and preferences for pesticide use in agriculture. Because a society has limited resources and government cannot meet everyone's expectations, tradeoffs become central to policy decision-making. Making wise tradeoffs is one of the most difficult challenges for policy-makers. A role for government is to achieve a fair balance between the risks that a community bears and the benefits that it receives.
In general, cost-benefit analyses are important tools for informing
public-policy decisions regarding use of chemical pesticides. The impacts of pesticides on the economy and environment are measured in monetary terms, and estimates are incorporated into comparisons of costs and benefits associated with alternative public actions. A considerable body of evidence exists on potential risks posed by and benefits of established categories of some pesticides; however, there are many uncertainties in measuring the full array of benefits and costs of pesticide use. Furthermore, the Food Quality Protection Act has fundamentally changed the use of cost-benefit analyses in that the law now largely precludes consideration of benefits.
Pesticides provide economic benefits to producers (Chapter 2) and by extension to consumers. One of the major benefits of pesticides is protection of crop quality and yield. Pesticides can under some circumstances prevent large crop losses, thus raising agricultural output and farm income (Zilberman 1997). The increased supply of crops can be passed on to consumers in the form of lower food prices (although low prices can adversely affect farmers regardless of production increases). Many farmers are responsible land stewards and are concerned with potential environmental impacts of pesticides, but it is unrealistic to expect most farmers to adopt alternative pest-management strategies that would decrease their profits without the use of some policy incentives and disincentives.
Recommendation 2. A concerted effort in research and policy should be made to increase the competitiveness of alternatives to chemical pesticides; this effort is a necessary prerequisite for diversifying the pest-management “toolbox” in an era of rapid economic and ecological change.
Many involved with agriculture recognize that pest-control practices can be improved. Lack of efficacy, risks to workers who apply pesticides, and threats to the environment often are cited as constraints of current pest-management strategies. Some producers are adopting alternatives to pesticides as part of a holistic management approach that integrates multiple farming objectives with agroenvironmental goals. A grower 's decision to use pesticides depends on a broad array of biological and economic factors. However, a decision to use pesticides can alter the environment in ways that affect later pest-management choices.
Organic foods and ecolabeling markets are creating new opportunities for growers who are willing to reduce or exclude synthetic chemicals in their production practices. Environmentally friendly products appeal to consumers, too; organic food sales are growing at a rate of 20%/year in the United States. Yet policy analysts report that only 0.1% of agricultural research is devoted to organic farming practices. (Chapter 3). Availability
of alternative pest-management tools will be critical to meet the production standards and stiff competition expected in these niche markets.
Globalization policies and practices are affecting pest management on and off the farm. Reduction in trade barriers increases competitive pressures and provides extra incentives for United States farmers to reduce costs and increase crop yields. In a global marketplace, United States farmers can compete with farmers from other countries where labor, land, and input costs are lower only by being more “productive,” with higher yields per acre. Other forms of trade barriers create disincentives for adopting new technologies (such as the reluctance of the European Union to accept genetically modified organisms). It is not well understood how globalization will affect agriculture in developing countries, where 80% of the world's population lives (Schuh 1999). It is likely that trade will increase the spread of invasive pest species and pose risks to domestic plants and animals, as well as populations of native flora and fauna. Increased pressure to phase out the widely used ozone-depleting chemical methyl bromide has raised questions as to the availability of cost-effective substitutes. To meet those emerging global pest problems, researchers will need to develop effective, environmentally compatible, and efficient pest controls as a complement to a suite of prevention strategies.
Nontarget effects of exposure of humans and the environment to pesticide residues are a continuing concern. The side effects of pesticide use vary over time and space. In many cases, the environmental damage associated with the application of a chemical in a riparian zone, for example, is much larger than that associated with an application in other areas. When it comes to a local environmental-quality problem caused by pesticide use, application technologies and the location matter much more than the volume of pesticide applied. Numerous studies have shown that pesticides decrease crop loss, but the potential indirect environmental impacts of pesticides are not easily determined. The application of pesticides results in indirect effects on ecosystems by reducing local biodiversity and by changing the flow of energy and nutrients through the system as the biomass attributable to individual species is altered (Chapter 4). Pesticide policies should be based on sound science; where there is uncertainty, expert judgment will become more important in decision-making. Across-the-board pesticide policies that do not account for biological and ecological factors and for socioeconomic influences are likely to be less effective.
Pesticide resistance now is universal across taxa (Chapter 2). Pests will adapt to counter any control strategy that results in the death or reduced fitness of a substantial portion of their population. Cultural and biological controls are not immune to evolution of resistance. Pesticide resistance is conspicuous because of the intensity of selection by high-
efficacy chemicals. Most cases of insecticide resistance are to chlorinated hydrocarbons because these compounds have been in widespread continuous use for many years. Herbicide resistance is becoming more of a problem, and severe impacts can occur when there are no alternative herbicides to control the resistant genotypes or when available alternatives are relatively expensive. By spreading the burden of crop protection over multiple tactics, rather than relying on a single tool, farmers will face less risk of crop loss and lower rates of pest adaptation to control measures (Bessin et al. 1990, Vangessel et al. 1996). Because pests will continue to evolve in response to pest controls, research needs to support development of pest-management tools that reduce selection pressure, delay selection for resistance, and thus increase the life of chemical and other products.
GOVERNMENT SUPPORT OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
There are several justifications for public engagement in these lines of research. First, there is underinvestment from a social perspective in private-sector research because companies will aim to maximize only what we have called suppliers' surplus (difference between suppliers ' income and their production costs) rather than the social surplus. Companies will compare their expected profits from their patented products resulting from research and will not consider the benefits to consumers and users. For example, the development and release of a self-sustaining biological control agent, such as a parasitoid or entomopathogen, or the development of an integrated crop-rotation program might benefit farmers and food consumers but not provide a marketable commodity to a company. Second, research activities are very risky, and even big corporations might have a higher aversion to risks than society does, and that will lead to underinvestment in risky research activities (Sandmo 1971). Recent developments in computers and medical biotechnology illustrate this point. Many of the breakthrough innovations in these fields were the result of publicly funded university research whose results were patented. The rights to use the patents were sold to new startup companies that in many cases were the result of partnerships between university professors and venture capitalists (Zilberman et al.1998, Parker et al. 1998). That is the case with important companies that include Sun, Cisco, Netscape, Genentech, Chiron, and, in agriculture, Calgene. Major corporations often take over such companies once they are established. Publicly supported university research, through the process of technology transfer, has become a source of economic growth in the United States, and this model is now being imitated elsewhere (Levy 1998). One reason that biotechnology research in agriculture is lagging in its development relative to medi-
cal biotechnology is the paucity of public support of discoveries in agriculture.
A third reason why public research might lead to innovations that elude the private sector is the different incentives that researchers in the private and public sectors face. For the most part, private sector researchers emphasize projects that improve existing product lines. The advancement of public researchers is affected by their publications in refereed journals, where novelty and originality have a premium. This argument suggests that public research grants should be allocated competitively to generate the highest-quality research.
A fourth argument for public support of research is that much of the funding is allocated to institutions of higher learning and used to train future scientists for the private sector. Availability of trained scientists will be a key to future innovation in pest-management technologies. Finally, the public sector should conduct research in areas that are pursued by the private sector to have the information and background for regulatory purposes.
Provision of information to policy-makers and the need to design and enforce policies to address problems of externalities is a justification of public research on benefit-risk assessment, producers' behavior, and environmental fate (externalities occur when activities of one economic agent indirectly affect the well-being of another—for example, by generating pollution). Because one avenue to reduce side effects of pesticides is improving application technologies, and the private sector might not invest in developing such innovations until policy incentives are enacted, the public sector can conduct some basic research in application technology to identify feasible avenues that will provide basic information in assessing new regulations.
The private sector is likely to invest in development and regulatory activities needed to introduce pest-control technologies for major markets. However, the private sector often cannot capture these costs in the case of specialty crops (such as, fruit, vegetable, and nursery crops). If one adds consumer and user surpluses to supplier surplus for these crops, the net social benefits might be positive. Therefore, one idea for government intervention is to support and provide extra incentives for the introduction of pest control in specialty crops where consumer surpluses could be important and supplier surpluses are typically small.
Pests will continue to thrive, and a strong science and technological base will be needed to support management decisions. We need to continue to use the best science to resolve these questions, and policy-makers need to use the best science in their decision-making. As new technologies develop, theoretical frameworks for resolving such questions continue to be developed.
Recommendation 3. Investments in research by the public sector should emphasize those areas of pest management that are not now being (and historically have never been) undertaken by private industry.
Federal funding of pesticide research has historically had a very narrow base, as seen with the Agricultural Research Service and National Science Foundation (NSF) funding (Chapter 1).
To diversify the range of tools available for managing pests, a diversity of approaches would be beneficial. The chief desirable policy changes to diversify the research enterprise are highlighted below.
Recommendation 3a. Investment in pest management research at USDA should be increased and restructured in particular to steadily increase the proportion and absolute amounts directed toward competitive grants in the National Research Initiative Competitive Grants Program (NRI), as opposed to earmarked projects.
A greater emphasis on research—not only on chemicals themselves, but also on the ecological consequences of pesticide use—can increase the probability that new products will be readily integrated into ecologically based pest-management systems. Pest biology and management studies represented some 15–17% of the funding allocations under NRI in 1998 and 1999; however, only 15 studies of biologically based pest management were funded in each of the last 2 years (USDA 2000).
Recommendation 3b. Total investment in pest management and the rate of new discoveries should be increased by broadening missions at funding agencies other than USDA—specifically, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the NSF, EPA, Department of Energy (DOE), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to address biological, biochemical, and chemical research that can be applied to ecologically based pest management.
The perspective on research and development and new products should be global and should take into account the collaboration and partnerships in research.
Investment in basic research applicable to ecologically based pest management is consistent with the missions of the funding agencies. Such initiatives could include
Obtaining the ecological and evolutionary biological information necessary for design and implementation of specific pest-management systems.
Identifying ways to enhance the competitiveness of alternatives or adjuncts by investing in studies of cultural and biological control.
Elucidating fundamental pest biochemistry, physiology, ecology, genomics, and genetics to generate information that can lead to novel pest-control approaches.
Examining residue management, environmental fate (biological, physical, and chemical), and application technology to monitor and reduce environmental damage and adverse health effects of both pesticides and pesticide alternatives.
The lack of basic information on pest population spatial and temporal dynamics is a major impediment to implementation of ecologically based pest management. NSF and EPA could make an important contribution by funding research associated with understanding of pest-population and community dynamics. This type of research is funded by these agencies, but it focuses mostly on natural, as opposed to managed, ecosystems. In addition, all agencies could improve the basic understanding of pests and their impacts by funding longer-term projects that would adequately capture the variability in pest dynamics, including pesticide-resistance evolution, under alternative management systems.
Recommendation 3c. On-farm studies, in addition to laboratory and test-plot studies, are a necessary component of the research enterprise. Investment in implementation research, which helps to resolve the practical difficulties that hinder progression from basic findings to operational utility, is needed.
The idiosyncratic nature of individual agroecosystems limits the utility of both laboratory and test-plot studies in predicting the efficacy of pest-management strategies. An increased emphasis on large-scale and long-term on-farm studies through the use of the global positioning system (GPS) and global information system (GIS) technologies could contribute substantially to diversifying management tools and approaches. The goal might be best achieved by investment of at least some ear-marked funds to ensure stability of funding. Such research programs should remove the gap between “basic” and “demonstration ” research for all managed and natural ecosystems. USDA needs to fund applied research because there are limits to models that serve basic science as well. Such models advance fundamental knowledge, but often the major economic problems involve organisms that are hardly ideal from a fundamental scientific viewpoint. These problems can be best addressed by research on the organisms in question. The information generated by applied on-farm research is crucial to extension scientists, crop consultants, and producers.
Recommendation 3d. Basic research on public perceptions and on risk assessment and analysis would be useful in promoting widespread acceptance and adoption of ecologically based management approaches.
The body of literature evaluating public responses to agrochemicals in particular and pest management in general is not extensive. Surveys that have been done (e.g., Potter and Bessin, 1998, Chapter 3) indicate that communication with the public about pesticides and their alternatives has been ineffectual. Media coverage of integrated pest management (IPM) in widely circulated urban newspapers is sketchy and tends to focus on urban issues, thus providing little useful information to readers relevant to integrated pest management in agricultural settings (Caldwell et al. 2000). Although there have been substantial advances in research on risk perception in recent years, risk communication is a relatively new discipline (Petersen, 2000). Research priorities include elucidating impacts of increasing benefit perceptions in risk communication, developing empirical methods for more accurate characterization of public perceptions, identifying reasons for differing qualitative and quantitative perceptions about pesticide technology and agrobiotechnology, and determining whether risk communication can reduce the gap that exists between public perceptions and scientific risk assessments (Petersen 2000).
Funding of New Ventures in Agricultural Biotechnology and Biopesticides
A broad body of research in economics and policy has investigated the role of the public sector in the economy (Laffont 1988). A major justification of government intervention is that it can improve the efficiency of the economy by instituting policies that expand the human well-being derived from the resource base. To improve efficiency, government intervention might be required to establish and enforce property rights, overcome deficiencies in information availability, regulate monopolistic behavior, provide the institutional foundation to settle externality problems, or augment the provision of public goods. Public goods are products and activities to which people have free access for which they do not need to compete; free air is a pure public good, as is national defense. Because of open access, individual consumers and producers might underinvest in public goods and have a tendency to take these resources for granted. The need for public-sector intervention in the economy is quantitatively determined by comparing socially optimal resource outcomes with market outcomes. For example, if monopolies underproduce and overcharge for their products, government regulation could lead to increased production
and lower prices. Government investment is needed to provide optimal levels of public goods so that incremental social benefits are equal to incremental social costs.
The public sector consists of various layers of government (local, state, federal, and international). In theory, each level of government addresses problems that affect its constituency. The justifications of government intervention in the management of pest control include the need to address the externality problems associated with the human and environmental health effects of pesticides and the information uncertainties regarding pesticides and their impacts. The performance and value of pest-control technologies depend on their specific properties and the manner of their application. The regulatory process has been designed to screen out the riskier materials. However, few incentives exist for efficient and environmentally sound pest-control management strategies. Introduction of incentives that would reduce the reliance on riskier pest-control strategies and encourage the use of environmentally friendly strategies is likely to lead to increased efficiency in pesticide use. Such incentives as taxes and fees for the use of various categories of chemicals have been recommended, but because of user objections they might not always be politically feasible. Users might prefer subsidies to reduce pesticide loads, but this policy may strain the public budget.
Establishing regional pesticide targets and implementing them through tradable permits is a better solution that will achieve the same outcome. Because the environmental effects of pesticides can vary with location, one policy approach to reduce pesticide use in an environmentally sensitive area is to institute programs like the Conservation Reserve Program, which pays farmers to modify their behavior in a way that will promote improved environmental quality. Another practical policy that seems to have worked is to condition entitlement to government programs on meeting specified criteria of environmental stewardship. Because pest-control devices are often used as mechanisms to reduce uncertainty, experiments with subsidized insurance schemes against pest damage might constitute another avenue to induce adoption of improved pesticide practices.
Worker-safety concerns have emerged as a major problem associated with pesticide use. There have been some important improvements, owing, in part, to the mandates of the 1992 Worker Protection Standards (WPS) and the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act, but the search for more-efficient policies should continue. Development of these policies might entail investment in research to improve monitoring on the farm to allow more precise responses to changes in environmental conditions. Some of the presentations to the committee suggested that worker-safety prob
lems are the result, not of the laws on the books, but of monitoring and enforcement (see Chapter 3, for discussion of WPS).
Sometimes objections to pesticides are an issue of subjective preference even when scientific evidence cannot support the objections. In this case, a government role in banning a pesticide might not be appropriate; an appropriate role might be to establish a legal framework that enables organic and pesticide-free markets to emerge and prosper so that consumers can be given an informed choice between lines of products that vary with pest management.
Although agricultural biotechnology is more successful now than it was 2–5 years ago, raising money for agricultural ventures is still difficult for various reasons. First and most important, few investors have expertise in agricultural biotechnology. Venture capitalists invest in industries that they know and have a history of successful investing in. Second, although investors who exited early from their investments in 1980s agricultural-biotechnology companies made good returns, there are no block-buster successes such as agricultural versions of Genentech or Amgen. Third, agricultural biotechnology must compete with telecommunication, software, Internet, and health-care biotechnology for venture capital. Fourth, few new agricultural-biotechnology companies have continued to generate investor interest (there is no “critical mass”). For United States agriculture to stay in the forefront with safer, environmentally friendly pest-management tools, there needs to be a continuing cycle of innovative new companies that research risky cutting-edge technologies.
Recommendation 4. Government policies should be adapted to foster innovation and reward risk reduction in private industry and agriculture. The public sector has a unique role to play in supporting research on minor use cropping systems, where the inadequate availability of appropriate chemicals and the lack of environmentally and economically acceptable alternatives to synthetic chemicals contribute disproportionately to concerns about chemical impacts.
The public sector can foster innovation in product development and pest-management practices by continuing to reduce barriers to investment by the private sector and by increasing implementation of regulatory processes that encourage product and practice development. Pesticide use in minor-use crops, which include most fruits and vegetables, is of great concern to the public because of the potential for worker exposure and residues on foods (chapter 3). These crops are not the focus of industry research, because the small acreage available for treatment is insufficient to result in substantial net profits. To accomplish these ends,
the base for public funding should be broadened so as to take advantage of multiple opportunities for innovation.
Recommendation 4a. The Department of Commerce Advanced Technology Program should be encouraged to fund high-risk R&D for IPM, EBPM and alternatives that have commercial potential for early stage companies.
The Advanced Technology Program (ATP) funded by the Department of Commerce awards grants that average $1-5 million, making it a valuable source for an early stage company. Typically ATP awards companies grants for risky, cutting edge R&D that has commercial potential. New tools for ecologically based pest management could get a boost if new companies could successfully compete for ATP funding for developing new IPM tools and alternatives.
Recommendation 4b. Incentives should be increased for private companies to develop products and pest-management practices in crops with small acreages, including access to compete for Interregional Research Project 4 (IR4) funds used to obtain product registrations for minor-use crops.
The Interregional Research Project 4 (IR4) program exists to assist in getting products registered on minor crops. IR4 awards grants to university researchers for biopesticide research. It has a long history of success in getting registrations for products for minor crops when there are no incentives for large companies to do so. We expect over the next few years to see as much success with biopesticides as IR4 has had with chemicals. Private companies are not allowed to obtain grants, but they are most capable of moving new products to market. The IR4 program should broaden its scope and allow private companies to obtain grants. IR4 should also better measure the outcomes (such as impact on farmers) of its current biopesticide grant program for academic researchers.
Recommendation 4c. Redundancy in registration requirements should be reduced to expedite adoption of safer alternative products (such as biopesticides and reduced-risk conventional pesticides)
Increased harmonization of review processes between EPA and the California Environmental Protection Agency (CAL-EPA), for example, would reduce the time requirements for registration. To reduce duplication, such agencies as EPA and CAL-EPA should divide the review tasks up front. Streamlining registration, however, must not come at the expense of public safety and local preferences.
Incentives can also be put into place to foster the development of
products and pest-management practices in minor-use crops. Currently, the EPA's Biopesticide and Pollution Prevention Division (BPPD) has responsibility for registering new microbial and biochemical pesticides under subdivision M of the FIFRA. It takes 12–24 months to complete a biopesticide registration in BPPD. If that time could be reduced to less than 12 months for minor crops without compromising human and environmental-safety screening for minor-use crops, there would be an even greater favorable financial impact on small companies, and farmers would benefit by having earlier access to products. A recent problem for BPPD is that the division is responsible for transgenic crops in addition to biopesticides. BPPD has had to immediately address environmental groups' and Congress's issues on transgenic crops, which has slowed down reviews of new biopesticides.
Recommendation 4d. Evaluation of the effectiveness of biocontrol agents should involve consideration of long-term impacts rather than only short-term yield, as is typically done for conventional practices.
Many biocontrol agents are not considered acceptable by growers, because they are evaluated for their immediate impact on pests (that is, they are expected to perform like pesticides). Some biocontrol pathogens used against weeds might cause as little as a 10% reduction in fecundity, which might not be a visible result but has a major long-term effect causing population decline. Low-efficacy biocontrol agents alone might not be acceptable for pest management but, in combination with other low-efficacy tactics, they could be preferable because they avoid the selection for resistance for that is associated with high-efficacy tactics.
Recommendation 4e. At the farm level, incentives for adopting efficient and environmentally sound integrated pest-management and ecologically based pest-management systems can come from
Expanding crop insurance for adoption of integrated pest-management and ecologically based pest-management systems practices.
Implementing taxes and fees on environmentally higher-risk practices.
Setting up tradable permit systems to reduce overall pollution emissions.
Ensuring availability of funds in support of resource conservation (such as the Conservation Reserve Program).
Conditioning entitlement to government payment on environmental stewardship.
Assessing and more stringently enforcing regulations designed to protect worker health and safety.
Innovative crop-insurance policies can be developed to promote the adoption of pesticide alternatives and to increase their economic competitiveness. USDA is developing and piloting some innovative crop-insurance programs to increase incentives to farmers to use alternative products and IPM systems (James Cubie, USDA, and Tom Green, IPM Institute of America, October 10, 1998, personal communications) that reduce the number of pesticide sprays. They include crop insurance for use of IPM in potatoes designed to reduce chemical applications in late blight (so that growers wait until conditions exist for disease instead of using prophylactic sprays) and in corn to control corn rootworm (so that growers scout for corn rootworm adults and do not spray if numbers are below economic thresholds). Another potential approach includes U.S. Senator Richard Lugar's Farmers' Risk Management Act of 1999 (S. 1666), which would change the way crop insurance has traditionally been used to a risk-management approach that would involve landowners in helping them to financial viability. The Act, if it passes, would provide eligibility for crop insurance if IPM or crop advisers are used.
Recommendation 4f. Funds should be assigned to assess compliance with Worker Protection Standards and to improve worker health and safety in specialty crops.
Worker safety in specialty crops is a serious concern (Chapter 3). There are two interacting problems: a more intensive interface between worker and crop and inadequate effort in developing safer products and practices. Those problems are exacerbated by the collective importance of such crops in diversifying and enriching the United States diet (Chapter 3). The current Agriculture Health Study (Alavanja et al. 1996) emphasizes only two states (Iowa and North Carolina) and does not specifically address specialty (minor-use) crops. Funds should be assigned to study worker health and safety in specialty crops and to assess compliance with WPS. Without more detailed objective information on compliance, there is a reasonable doubt that the 1992 WPS is accomplishing its goal. Conducting an objective study of compliance with WPS will be difficult but important. It is imperative that the organization and individuals conducting such a study be unbiased and have no conflict of interest. There is a need for better data regarding exposure under different conditions in the field and a need for better models of this exposure for accurate worker risk assessment.
Furthermore, the diffuse nature of the data demands sophisticated sociological, epidemiological, and statistical expertise (as would be possessed by university scientists). Before such a study is conducted, however, the WPS needs to be studied to determine the degree of compliance that will be considered sufficient to protect worker health.
As mentioned earlier, efforts are needed to address safer practices for workers. Farm workers typically do not know when or what pesticides have been applied to fields, so they must rely on their employers to protect them from hazardous exposure. Because some employers might not follow WPS regulations, funds should be assigned to develop pesticide formulations that contain specific odors or dyes that would provide farm workers with direct information on the presence of hazardous pesticide residues.
Tools are available that allow inexpensive monitoring of worker exposure to pesticides and monitoring of the pharmacokinetics of compounds at concentrations commensurate with actual environmental exposures. These tools should be used.
EDUCATION AND INFORMATION
It is clear from the committee's study that the general public has a critical function in determining the future role of pesticides in US agriculture. Consumer interest in food and other goods perceived as safe and healthy fuels the rapid growth of the organic-food market; at the same time, consumer use of pesticides in the home and on the lawn continues to grow (Chapter 2). Many of the paradoxical decisions made by the voting and consuming public arise from a relatively poor grasp of the science behind crop protection (Chapter 3).
The public sector has responsibility for providing education and information. Publicly supported education at all levels is essential for facilitating equality of opportunity. The working of a democracy and the efficiency of the market are infeasible without an educated public. Availability of information is essential for efficient resource allocation. Because knowledge also has public-good properties, a major responsibility of the public sector is to provide basic knowledge and information for decision-makers, in both the public and private sectors (Ruttan 1980).
Education in scientific and technical fields is designed to meet anticipated demands in the private and public sectors. As long as there is a demand for pesticide-based solutions to pest-control problems, the education system has to train people to work in this field and to provide independent pesticide expertise in the public sector. Because we agree that pest-control choices have to be determined in the context of a perspective that incorporates biophysical, ecological, and economic considerations, education should emphasis basic principles and knowledge that will lead to informed decisions. Schultz (1975) emphasized the value of a good understanding of basic principles in a modern economy. He argued that people with a solid general education in the principles of science
have a better ability to deal with the disequilibrium associated with continuous changes in technology.
The broad set of considerations associated with pest-control decisions requires more interdisciplinary education in land-grant universities. People trained in life sciences and agriculture should also have a strong background in decision theory, risk evaluation, ethics, and economics to be able to handle pest-control problems in the commercial world. Many of the decisions associated with pest control are subject to public choice and public debate. To obtain rational and efficient outcomes, it is essential that scientists be able to communicate with the public in a clear and nontechnical manner about the tradeoffs associated with alternative pest-control issues.
All citizens should be familiar with the basic principles of applied biology and risk evaluation, which can be provided as part of basic education. The general public, including children from kindergarten to 12th grade, should be educated about basic principles of environmental risk and of pest and disease control.
Agriculture has become more science-based and requires much more specific expertise to enhance productivity. As the support and funding for extension increase, new types of institutions and private consultants emerge. Transmission of knowledge in the past was the responsibility mostly of the public sector, but it has become more privatized. That changes how pesticide-use decisions are made and has introduced into the process a value system that might not always have the public 's interests at its core.
Recommendation 5. The public sector must act on its responsibility to provide quality education to ensure well-informed decision-making in both the private and public sectors.
This effort encompasses efforts in the agricultural sector, in the academic sector, and in the public sector at large.
Recommendation 5a. In the agricultural sector, a transition should be made toward principle-based (as opposed to product-based) decision-making. The transition should be encouraged throughout the continuum from basic to implementation research in universities, in extension, in the USDA Agricultural Research Service, and among producers.
Formulaic approaches to pest problems that are aimed at yield maximization rather than at sustainability approaches (product-based decision-making) have contributed to many of the problems plaguing agriculture. A sound grasp of fundamental principles should provide
decision-makers with the flexibility needed to select from a menu of alternatives and to tailor practices to particular production systems.
A basic premise of an ecological approach to pest management is to manipulate biological processes to manage pests. For example, the impact of weeds on crop yield will depend on a number of biological factors, such as time of weed emergence and rate of weed growth ( Box 6-1). Understanding these physiological factors can help a pest manager to determine optimal timing for intervention strategies, such as herbicide use to manage weed population to a level where benefits outweigh costs of control. University research and extension scientists, in collaboration with producers, should strive to develop biologically based decision-making that optimizes pest-management strategies for economic and environmental goals.
5b. Land-grant universities should emphasize systems-based interdisciplinary research and teaching and foster instruction in applied biology and risk evaluation for nonscientists.
There is a need to educate legislators and the general public about ecologically based pest management in research and in practice. Investment in increasing K-12 exposure to concepts of risk evaluation, food agriculture, and general biology can also have enormous benefits in creating a more knowledgeable and educated electorate.
5c. An effort should be made, in the government and in the land-grant system, to educate and train scientists about the value of public outreach.
The public sector should provide incentives and training for scientists to communicate effectively to the public about principles and practices of ecologically based pest management. Such incentives are almost nonexistent in many institutions, particularly outside the agriculture colleges. Outreach efforts, because of their overall value in providing popular support for the research enterprise, should be accorded some commensurate value in decisions related to career advancement and professional stature.
Our goal in agriculture should be the production of high-quality food and fiber at low cost and with minimal deleterious effects on humans or the environment. To make agriculture more productive and profitable in the face of rising costs and rising standards of human and environmental health, we will have to use the best combination of available technologies. These technologies should include chemical, as well as biological and recombinant, methods of pest control integrated into ecologically bal
Working Model for Assessing Integrated Weed-Management Strategies
Highly efficacious pesticides often mask the complexity of a cropping system-pest relationship. Many crop producers and scientists are just beginning to understand the relationships between biological and agronomic practices and the impacts of a pest on a crop. Herbicides, in particular, have made the recognition and integration of more biologically based alternatives difficult. Commodity-grain producers now use highly efficacious and fast-acting herbicides as time- and labor-management tools, giving less regard to the biological and agronomic principles that can increase or decrease a herbicides effectiveness and durability (see box 5-1).
For more than 30 years, herbicide use has been the dominant tactic for weed management. Over this period, herbicide technology has been a primary focal point of the agrochemical industry-university relationship. Historically, university herbicide-evaluation trials were established to demonstrate the efficacy of individual products and to promote weed-management research. In its technology-transfer role, the University Extension Service also provided a public service by offering a third-party neutral perspective to this manufacturer-crop producer relationship.
During the 1990s major changes occurred in both institutions. As agrochemical markets became saturated, herbicides were differentiated more by marketing and product endorsements than by efficacy. Past agrochemical and university relationships were centered around basic and applied research and technology transfer. The current economic climate has resulted in agrochemical industries doing more of their own basic and applied herbicide research and has tended to push university herbicide evaluation and technology transfer to more of a marketing and product-endorsement focus. Although a marketing perspective might address attributes of a single herbicide, this approach to weed management does not address the complexities of integrating a pesticide into a cropping system of an individual producer.
The University of Minnesota is responding to public demand for alternatives to herbicide weed-control technology by adopting a biological and ecological research strategy with a goal of developing integrated weed-management systems, including herbicides as a component. University of Minnesota Extension and Branch Station personnel have formed a weed-management working group. The group focuses on evaluating weed management systems rather than individual herbicides. Its goals are as follows:
These goals are integrated into the annual agrochemical industry-university protocols with a four-step process:
That approach to herbicide analysis has been in place since 1994.
Crop producers and many organizations involved in information dissemination have responded favorably to the model approach, primarily because the objectives of the research are well defined and issues of profitability and integrated weed management are addressed. Obstacles in developing the weed-management group have been related to communication of objectives to agrochemicalindustry representatives and other university personnel and to finding funding sources that will sponsor this type of activity. The model system has yet to address more complex and time-intensive biological approaches to weed management, such as smother crops or biological control agents. Because the studies are not conducted on the same field year after year, natural weed population-regulating mechanisms cannot be assessed. The Minnesota model system, however, has stimulated crop producers to begin considering the benefits of integrated weed management and how integrated weed management is affected by environmental and agronomic variables. Studies of this nature need to be conducted on a long-term basis to assess the economic and biological stability of various integrated weed-management systems.
Sources: Box composed by Jeff Gunsolus and adapted from Gunsolusetal., 1995; Hoverstad et al., 1995; and Maxwell, 1999.
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