Author: Xavier Amenós, Product Manager of Industrias Químicas del Vallés, S.A. (IQV)
In a society committed to health and preserving the environment, farmers are increasingly choosing pesticides derived from natural materials.
Pest and disease control is an essential activity for agricultural production. It makes it possible to stabilise the mass of organisms that are harmful to crops, and thereby ensure farming yields.
Traditionally, chemical-based phytosanitary products have been more commonly used for this purpose. However, in recent years something has been changing: what are known as BCA or biopesticides derived from natural materials are being increasingly accepted by agricultural producers.
What are BCA or biopesticides?
They are natural materials that permit pest and disease control in crops. They are classified into four categories:
1.Macroorganisms. These are predators or parasitic insects (also called "beneficial organisms" or "useful organisms"), that normally act on insect pests.
2.Microorganisms. These are fungi, bacteria or viruses that work as active ingredients of biopesticides.
3.Natural substances. These come from natural plant extracts and are obtained through fermentation.
4.Semiochemicals. These are products based on pheromones that change the behaviour of insects by interfering in their communication with other members of their species (attracting them, or causing sexual confusion, for example).
What benefits does the use of BCA have?
Compared to synthetic chemical products, BCAs present numerous advantages:
They have lower toxicity. They are more environmentally friendly, and are healthier for humans and kinder to beneficial organisms.
They do not induce resistance, because of their multiple modes of action.
They do not leave residues in food. Therefore, they satisfy the demands of the food chain.
They do not require the establishment of maximum residue limits or pre-harvest intervals for crops.
They also act as biostimulants for plants. This is not the case with traditional phytosanitary products.
If today we speak about a boom in biopesticides it is because these advantages add enormous value in the current social and legislative context.
A society that demands more commitment
Undoubtedly, the success of biopesticides is influenced by a social climate that is increasingly concerned about health and environmental impact. Currently:
Society has negative feelings towards the phytosanitary industry, which is associated with polluting industrial activities that are harmful to health.
There is increasing demand for food products from environmentally friendly farming. This is due to the rise in eco-friendly lifestyles (respecting the environment).
Because of the above, wholesalers, distributors and retailers are now also increasingly demanding food without residues of active substances.
Legislation, another decisive factor
There is another key element to this favourable context: the increasing awareness of the health authorities that regulate and authorise pesticide products. And it is no coincidence that there are more and more laws and regulations that encourage, (and in some cases even impose), the use of these products. For example, in the context of the EU:
EC Regulation 1107/2009 and EC Directive 128/2009 promote the use of phytosanitary and pesticide products with the least adverse effects on health and the environment, such as biopesticides.
European integrated pest management (IPM) programmes are being implemented, which is a farming strategy that gives priority to the use of biological management techniques.
From the above, we should not deduce that biopesticides have advantages in their commercialisation. BCAs have to be registered to go to market. And, in the European Union, they follow the same protocol as is applied to synthetic phytosanitary products, regulated by EC Regulation EC 1107/2009.
In the US, however, the regulatory framework is less strict. It helps companies with formalities by requesting less information and speeding up registration times.
A market of opportunities
The pioneers in the BCA market have basically been small and medium-sized enterprises specialising in this sector.
However, for some time now large multinational companies have been entering the market, by acquiring or merging with these smaller players. Why? The BCA market, despite still being small in terms of value, has a predicted annual growth of approximately 14%. While in contrast, it is predicted that in coming years the value of the total synthetic phytosanitary product market will stagnate and perhaps even fall.
Biological Control Agents are not just a passing trend, they are here to stay. We are talking about effective products with advantages and with great future expectations in the context of farming that is increasingly committed to ensuring the protection of the environment and people's health.