Oct. 15, 2019
Author: Pedro Peleato, CEO of SEIPASA.
In 1950, the world population was estimated to stand at 2.6 billion people. 30 years later, that figure had reached 4.4 billion, according to UN figures. From the point of view of the agricultural model, the decades immediately following the Second World War saw an increase in food production, which continued with the consolidation of the Welfare State and democratic progress in developed countries. The goal was to maximise production in order to feed a continuously growing world population and to achieve that, the chemical and pharmaceutical industries provided the best available aids. At that time, practically nobody was concerned with the negative consequences that such a model would have on the environment in terms of pollution of the air and aquifers, deterioration of soil quality or the generation of chemical residues harmful to human health.
40 years ago, public awareness of the destructive effects of climate change on our way of life hardly existed. Studies on the depletion of natural resources, environmental pollution or records of the increase in mean temperatures around the planet were much more limited.
The reality we face today has nothing to do with the model that grew and expanded in the heyday of industrial development that took place in the second half of the 20th century. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that the world population will increase by 39% in the coming decades to reach over 9.1 billion by 2050. In order to cope with such growth, world agricultural production will have to increase by 60%. The real and well-documented threat of climate change for the planet’s social, environmental and economic future sets sustainability, rationality and respect for the environment firmly at the centre of this new model of agricultural production.
Through the abusive use of synthetic chemicals, agriculture is partly responsible for the changes in the balance and sustainability of the agricultural environment, further exacerbated by the effects of climate change. However, if we analyse this matter from a different perspective, that same agricultural system would be one of the greatest victims of the most negative consequences of climate change in the form of more severe pressure from pests and diseases, the generation of new resistances, a slump in production levels or changes in water cycles.
The challenge for new agricultural systems lies in producing food under optimal, cost-effective conditions, in terms of quality, quantity and cost, and to generate a minimal impact on the environment. A response to that challenge appeared years ago and nowadays it is a worldwide trend that is continuously growing. It may be termed eco-, green, organic, ecological but nevertheless, all those labels refer to the same concept. According to European Commission statistics, organic farming in EU countries has quadrupled its demand over the past ten years and has gone from generating 20.8 billion euros in 2012 to 30.7 billion in 2016. Therefore, over the last decade, the surface area devoted to organic production has increased at an average rate of 500,000 hectares per year. The message is clear: consumers are pushing the market up in the presence of greater awareness about healthy food that is free of chemical residues.
In this new scenario, the entire food production sector and its auxiliary industries are striving to embrace and endorse the concept of sustainability. They all try to be green, in any of its various forms, thus turning the concept almost into a commodity, with the resulting actual risk of it losing value on the market.
The key to freeing ourselves from this undifferentiated flagstone with barely distinguishable nuances is to empower legislation on the registration of plant protection products. Within an increasingly stringent legal framework, plant protection registration is a guarantee of quality for the safe production of food, and companies that follow this path should also be given special recognition in the eyes of the market.
In Europe, Regulation 1107/2009 on plant protection products governs their use and marketing. This Regulation, which has evolved from earlier standards, supports a review of active ingredients and the elimination of those that have a greater toxicological content and a negative impact on human health, the environment and animal species.
There currently exist 479 active crop protection substances in the European Union. Nevertheless, with the review of active ingredients included in the Regulation, that number will be progressively reduced. Both the regulatory framework and policy management of this matter in the EU are increasingly stringent. A number of active ingredients that are used for various chemically synthesized plant protection products have been or are going to be banned. Likewise, existing active ingredients will see their authorised usage restricted.
About one year ago, the EU banned the use of three neonicotinoid insecticides on open air crops given the risk they pose for bees. Part of the industry reacted by warning of farmers’ lack of feasible alternatives to these three insecticides. The move leads to the number of aids available to farmers to control pests and diseases disappearing gradually, so agriculture needs new solutions capable of sustaining the present model, which is subjected to maximum production demands but within much more stringent constraints.
Amidst this particularly difficult challenge for agriculture, experienced companies like Seipasa, who have had sufficient insight to anticipate this new dilemma for farming, now emerge to proffer their significant specialisation and expertise in developing and manufacturing botanical and microbiological solutions for pest and disease control. Within this scenario of disappearing active ingredients, Seipasa has 15 years of accumulated experience in registering biopesticide products. The company has worked hard to put biopesticide solutions with plant protection registration on the market in each country and market where it maintains a commercial presence so that, while providing the same effectiveness as plant protection products based on chemical synthesis, our biopesticides comply with the new legal framework in terms of respect and friendliness for the environment and people.
The aforementioned Regulation 1107/2009 defines low risk as a substance that does not pose a any risk to the environment or to human health. Seipasa has developed this concept in order to put low risk solutions on the market, backed up by tests confirming that their application on crops is not harmful to environmental indicator species such as non-target arthropods, earthworms, fishes… The vision of the suitability of these solutions is shared by the European authorities, with whom Seipasa has held institutional meetings in several forums. In this sense, all the actors involved agree on the key role these products are playing in the new agricultural model and on the need to facilitate their incorporation into the market.
Seipasa holds plant protection registrations for biopesticide products across the globe, in countries such as the USA, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Morocco, Ivory Coast, Spain, Italy, France, Portugal or the United Kingdom, among others. This means we market solutions tailored to the needs of each geographical area and authorised by the official responsible bodies in each country depending on the crops, pests and diseases that each product is designed for.
Map of Seipasa's plant protection registrations worldwide. In green color, countries where the company currently has phytosanitary registrations. In yellow, countries with ongoing processes.
Seipasa’s international expansion strategy aims to grow on the basis of obtaining registration for bioinsecticides and biofungicides that solve major crop problems and afford the highest economic impact for producers.
The difficulty of registering plant protection products lies in the lack of uniform requisites. In the European Union, the active substances are authorised at EU level but the plant protection products that contain those materials require individual authorisation from each member state. In practice, this translates into lengthy delays and higher capital outlays, given the multiplication of requisites between one country and another.
Thus, we find ourselves in a situation which, in practice, makes the possibility of farmers using these new aids in the short term more complicated. Furthermore, the length of time involved makes the process of finally obtaining registration more expensive. The ultimate goal is to move towards a much more harmonious market, capable of unifying differing international criteria for registration, with increasingly specialised manufacturers and a greater exchange of knowledge and coordination among the administrations responsible for authorising the use of biopesticides.
This article was initially published in AgroPages '2019 Biologicals Special ' magazine. Download the PDF version of the magazine to read more articles.
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