ALTERNATIVES TO PESTICIDES -1- WHY?
My previous article gave me the idea of this new series, very important to face all challenges facing modern agriculture, in a context of societal demands for the reduction or even the prohibition of synthetic pesticides, and the need to maintain a highly productive agriculture that respects the environment and the health of consumers and users.
It seems interesting to me to take a look at what exists to replace them.
Because we will not make a sufficiently productive agriculture without means of phytosanitary protection. Although it is true that certain crops, under certain conditions, can be produced without any pesticide, the vast majority of agricultural production has an indispensable need for means of control and pesticides, whatever their origin, so that the production is sufficient, the farmer's income too, and that food safety is guaranteed to the consumer.
I remind you that I radically oppose a ban on synthetic pesticides.
It's an intellectual scam to let an uninformed, naive and manipulated public think that agriculture can live without pesticides.
It's also an intellectual scam to suggest to the same public that non-synthetic solutions exist to replace all synthetic pesticides in all crop situations.
It's still an intellectual scam to make this same public believe that all that is natural is good, and that a natural pesticide is better than a synthetic pesticide. You can see it in my series "Natural vs. Synthetic".
Finally, it's an intellectual scam to suggest, as is still the case for a large proportion of consumers, that organic farming does not use pesticides. Communications are systematically made on the same model, where it says "without pesticide" and is returned with an asterisk to a note written in small characters and at the end of the text "synthetic".
To be convinced of this, it suffices to observe the European progress of the biopesticide market:
Even if I am certain of what I have just explained to you, I am also convinced that the organic movement has the great merit of obliging the whole agricultural sector to question itself, to change the way it looks at its own activity, to look for alternatives to the most negative aspects, in particular concerning the impact on the environment and the health risks.
It is therefore very interesting to know the alternative methods available or in development. Even though I am convinced that a pesticide-free farming is impossible, I am also convinced that it is possible to greatly reduce its use.
Many researchers around the world are trying to find solutions, because the removal of synthetic pesticides would have serious consequences for the productivity of agriculture, the increase in hunger in the world, and even the health risks of our food. One of all consequences would be a likely sharp increase in the cost of food, severe financial hardship for farmers in the affected areas, and some, often difficult to assess, risks of food insecurity. Roughly, we can estimate that the availability of food will be more difficult to maintain stable.
Dear readers of rich countries, don't worry. You will always have to eat. You are lucky, like me, to live in a solvent country, the target of choice for export, one of those destinations that will never be lacking in food because you can afford to pay for it.
But people in developing countries are likely to suffer much more from food difficulties than ever before, since the export of food could become an essential source of income for states and farmers.
New methods are especially attracting the attention of multinationals and some startups, determined to take advantage of a huge cake on the horizon, the massive supply of food to rich countries.
And that's normal.
There is a real need.
Changing mentalities, first in developed countries and then progressively in developing countries, is pushing agriculture towards organic production, or at least towards less pesticide greedy production.
Actually, it's not exactly that. Regardless of the method of production applied, and even while it is true that there are ways to reduce the pressure of attacks of many diseases and pests, the fact remains that crops will remain more or less sensitive to them.
In order to avoid excessive production losses, the farmer will implement all available means to avoid potential damage.
Organic farming forbids everything that is not of natural origin (with few exceptions), without guaranteeing the safety of the technique used, nor even the environmental risks it presents, as it is the case for copper or neem oil, or by the production of natural toxins by deficiency control of fungal diseases.
The conventional farmer no longer has any interest in using pesticides blindly. They are expensive, even very expensive, and they can have side effects on the crop itself, as is the case with pyrethroids with mites, which promote the development of other phytosanitary problems which in turn will require the use of more pesticides.
The two main directions of production, organic or conventional, thus come together on the bottom of the problem: any intervention in the fields has side effects and undesirable consequences.
Nothing is ever benign, whether using a respectful technique or a natural pesticide, or using a synthetic pesticide.
The subject of this new series is precisely to list the techniques and methods available to avoid the use of pesticides, especially synthetics.
On some crops, non-synthetic alternatives do not currently allow sufficient production.
But it will come, I don't know when or how, but it will come.
In the meantime, any ban not correctly prepared by the prior existence of a confirmed alternative solution, will have serious consequences on disponibility of food.
The likely forthcoming ban on glyphosate could prove disastrous, especially for virtuous production methods such as conservation agriculture, with a result exactly opposite to that sought after.
The ban on neonicotinoids, whose effects on bees are questionable and controversial, will also have serious consequences for some crops.
It would be better to place priorities, without bias, without ideology, according to indisputable scientific criteria, and to promote the search for solutions to resolve these priorities.
Many works are in progress or have already resulted. I will present them in several chapters of this series, and I will publish a new article every time an innovation deserves to be talked about.
In next chapters of this series, I will talk about the evolution of knowledge about pests and diseases, as well as the behavior of plants against these aggressors, pesticides of natural origin, living useful organisms that avoid the use of pesticides, the influence that the farmer can have on plant self-defense capabilities, the use of pheromones, the influence of biodiversity on parasite risks, genetic research etc.