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Bureaucracy threatens farmers’ green revolution

Britain could throw away a lead in biopesticides because of outmoded styles of regulation, researchers at a University of Warwick conference have warned today (31 October 2007).

Biopesticides – Green pest control using natural predators such as insects, fungi and bacteria – are the subject of a conference for scientists and industry experts at the University of Warwick this week ‘Biopesticides, the Regulatory Challenge’.

Professor Wyn Grant has led a three-year project with researchers at Warwick HRI looking at biological alternatives to chemical pesticides. He said: “Globally the biopesticides market is worth $268m. The European market has doubled in size in recent years, but the EU can only meet 45 percent of the demand for biopesticides.

“As consumers ask for greener alternatives, and as organo-phosphates are phased out, older pesticide licences are not being renewed. This is creating a growing market for Green alternatives such as biopesticides.

“Sadly, even though the UK is one of Europe’s main players in this market, we could easily loose our first-mover advantage if red-tape slows us down.

“Biopesticides are much safer for humans and much more sustainable in the long-term. However, our current regulatory system is set up for synthetic pesticides – it costs up to €2.5m per product.”

“This is a particular problem because biopesticides are so targeted – it means their market is much smaller than the old-style kill-everything pesticides.

The researchers’ warning follows a European Parliament debate last week (24 October 2007) which rejected proposals to improve the regulation of biopesticides by creating regional eco-zones.

Professor Grant added: “Britain's Pesticide Safety Directorate has been an innovative regulator by setting up a special Biopesticides Scheme, but these efforts could be undermined by not getting the right arrangements in place across the EU.

“The European Parliament voted on new regulations on pesticides and missed an opportunity to promote safer alternatives to chemical products.

“Biopesticide controls are often produced by small firms and the lack of an internal market, because of the need to secure national regulatory approval in each member state, hampers their ability to get safer products to the market.”

Richard Fern | alfa
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