German Study Shows Potential for Pesticide Use Reduction
December 21, 2001
A recent study released by Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Germany
outlines key principles to guide pesticide use reduction strategies.
Entitled "From Law to Field: Pesticide Use Reduction in Agriculture --
From Pesticide Residue Analyses to Action, " the study advises how to
meet European Union (EU) pesticide use reduction targets that were set
for 2000 but have not yet been implemented.
Two key findings of the study are that pesticide use reduction analyses
are most effective if they are crop specific and if they incorporate
parties beyond the farm, including regulators, food retailers and
consumers. While based exclusively on German research and data, the
study also provides a framework for analysis and action applicable to
other crops and countries in the EU and beyond.
The report consists of three sections: a pesticide residue study, a risk
analysis and case studies on apples and wheat. Since pesticide use data
organized by crop and active ingredient are unavailable in Germany, the
study first examines pesticide residues in food and the environment --
including residues in ground-, rain- and surface- water, soil, air and
human and animal tissue -- to evaluate plant protection practices. The
data, covering the period of 1997 through 2001, document 119 different
pesticide residues including 58 in food, 59 in surface water and 61 in
Based upon these findings, the risk section of the report analyzes the
location the pesticide residues (i.e. food or water), toxicology of
detected pesticides and area of land covered by specific crops. Residues
of 51 pesticides registered in Germany were linked to use on 25 crops
that cover half of the total agricultural land area in that country. The
five most dangerous residues detected were dimethoate, chlorpyrifos,
cypermethrin, cyfluthrin and lambda-cyhalothrin. Celery and spinach had
the most toxic residues on average while apple and wheat contained the
highest number of residues.
Apples and wheat were chosen as case studies because the crops have a
high number of residues associated with their cultivation, are grown on
a large scale and represent different production systems.
Although integrated pest management (IPM) techniques are widespread in
German apple orchards, apple production in Germany is still
characterized by the intensive use of pesticides. The apple case study
finds that further pesticide use reduction could only be expected with a
move towards fully organic production methods and increased use of
resistant apple varieties.
In addition to changing cultivation practices, many steps beyond the
farm level are also identified as important in reducing pesticide use on
apples, including changing conditions of fruit marketing and commerce. A
key factor highlighted in the case study is the need to change
consumption patterns in order to reduce pesticide use on apple crops.
Since consumption patterns are strongly influenced by price, the study
advocates the political solution of national and international subsidies
for organic production. The case study emphasizes that politicians who
set standards for fruit trade, merchants, shopkeepers and consumers have
a strong influence on which apple varieties farmers produce.
In contrast, the second case study indicates that prospects for reducing
pesticide use through IPM are far greater for wheat than for apple
production. Since IPM measures have not been widely implemented on wheat
crops in Germany, the case study finds that simple preventative
practices such as changing the timing of seed sowing could reduce
pesticide use without risking economic losses. In order to support the
transition towards organic wheat production in Germany, the study
advocates financial support for farmers and the development of market
instruments to make products more attractive to consumers.
The report concludes that the best data to develop crop specific
pesticide use reduction strategies are not pesticide residue data, but
rather crop and site specific pesticide use data. It further argues that
convincing consumers of the need to change their consumption patterns is
the single most important factor in reducing pesticide use and
increasing organic production. The report also calls for further
research on how to facilitate the transition to organic farming in
Source: PAN Germany, "From Law to Field: Pesticide Use Reduction in
Agriculture -- From Pesticide Residue Analyses to Action," November
available at http://www.pan-germany.net/download.htm.
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