Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Biological Alternatives to Chemical Pesticides

With increasing consumer pressure on both farmers and supermarkets to minimise the use of chemical pesticides in fruit and vegetables, a new study, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), looks at why there is currently little use of biological alternatives in the UK.

Biological products, known as biopesticides, can play a significant role in a more sustainable food chain as chemical pesticides are withdrawn due to resistance problems or because they are no longer commercially viable, according to the research. Chemicals also endanger workers’ health and can contaminate groundwater.

“It is evident that biopesticides have a potentially important contribution to make to a competitive agriculture industry,” said lead researcher, Professor Wyn Grant, at the University of Warwick. “They have the potential to increase consumer confidence in fruit and vegetables whilst moving away from a polarised and over-simplified choice between conventional and organic modes of production.”

The research suggests that consumer concerns about toxic residues could undermine the recommended ‘five a day’ target for the consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables. Supermarkets have responded to consumer pressure by banning some approved pesticides, but have been slow to embrace biopesticides.

Biological control agents such as naturally occurring fungi, bacteria or viruses are applied in much the same way as chemical pesticides to fight insect pests, but have obvious benefits as they have little impact on other organisms, are compatible with other natural enemies, do not leave toxic residues and are relatively cheap to develop. These far outweigh the disadvantages of lower effectiveness and a shorter shelf life. So why has there been poor uptake in Britain?

The study says that because the regulatory system in the UK was developed with chemical pesticides in mind, it does not encourage the development of biopesticides. In recognition of this, the regulator - the Pesticides Safety Directorate (PSD) - lowered registration fees and created a Biopesticides Champion in 2006. This has led to a modest increase in the number of biological products being registered, with others in the pipeline.

The researchers pinpointed a lack of mutual recognition between EU member states as a key reason why the US has a much higher rate of biopesticide use. This makes it hard for the small companies – often start-ups – that usually develop biopesticides to obtain economies of scale.

New chemical formulations could be used to solve problems with biopesticide storage and efficacy and this might lead to greater interest from large businesses, the study says. Biopesticides need to be fitted into current environmental stewardship schemes to provide incentives for their use. Moreover, consumers need to be educated about biopesticides – and they should be given a different name with less negative connotations. The researchers also suggested providing an ethical marque for products.

Importantly, risks, costs and benefits need to be shared out between the manufacturer, regulator, government and consumers. The researchers also propose a framework to promote innovation within the regulator, including pressure from central government, the appointment of key individuals to drive through change, the need for regulators to develop their expertise and commercial or financial pressure.

“The absence of a Europe-wide market for biopesticides is a significant obstacle to their wider commercial availability,” the researchers said, though moves are underway to remedy this. They also pointed to “patchy” interaction between the regulator and retailers, and a lack of involvement of environmental groups, which they put down to indifference rather than hostility.

Professor Wyn Grant (Tel: 02476 523 720, e-mail:
ESRC Press Office:
Kelly Barnett (Tel: 01793 413032 / 07826874166, email:

Danielle Moore (Tel: 01793 413122, email:

Danielle Moore | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Forest Management Yields Higher Productivity through Biodiversity
14.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Farming with forests
23.09.2016 | University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES)

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Oasis of life in the ice-covered central Arctic

24.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

‘Farming’ bacteria to boost growth in the oceans

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

24.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>