Since the appearance in 1939 of DDT, the first synthetic insecticide widely used and now banned, to the new molecules called “neonicotinoids” which are much more powerful systemic pesticides, the dominant agricultural model that is built around a productive system, which is highly consuming chemical inputs creates multiple problems to the community today.
What has changed in the use of pesticides?
Pesticides have led to increases in productivity and exceptional returns in the decades following World War II.
These intensive systems have been favored in the European Union, with the first production-oriented policies of the Common Agricultural Policy.
The traditional system of agricultural production has mutated into a gigantic food industry dominated by a few large industrial groups, with significant differences and consequences for all players involved.
Today, several adverse effects profoundly call into question the continuation of such a model, the appearance and the massive use of neonicotinoids since 1990 used systemically, only accelerate this phenomenon.
Yet a credible alternative to this agricultural model already exists : agroecology, which promotes friendly agronomic solutions such as integrated pest management, which allows to restrict to a maximum pesticide use while maintaining high yields.
Chemical inputs, ineffective in the long term
for crop protection
Neonicotinoids and environmental pollution
The widespread and systematic use of pesticides in the neonicotinoid family, if they are used in a foliar way (aerial application) or systemic (coating of the seed) permanently pollute water and soil. They wreak havoc on non-target invertebrate populations (bees, ladybugs and beetles, fresh water mollusks, worms…) but are also a serious threat to mammals, fishes and birds, which if they don’t immediately die from the contact with neonicotinoids, suffer from impaired immunity, malnutrition, reproductive disorders and loss of cognitive capacity.
Only less than 20% of the substance coating the seed is absorbed by the plant, the remainder is dispersed in soil and aquatic environments, where it can remain between 200 and 1000 days and accumulate if the following crops also treated. If the following crops are not treated, they still develop high doses of neonicotinoids.
Neonicotinoids are soluble and travel very easily in water. We found them in groundwater, streams, ponds and rivers, canals… In California, 89% of the rivers studied contained traces of neonicotinoids. These pollutants pose a major threat to the ecosystem, and a serious threat to all organisms that ensure its balance.
Farmers dependent on the agro-chemical system
Alternatives: the development of agro-ecology and integrated pest management
Many practices within agro-ecology have proven effective for centuries: manure or compost, rational water use, adjustment of output to the ecosystem … Only the massive development of chemical inputs has removed the use of these practices.
The IPM (Integrated Pest Management) is at the heart of agro-ecology: it aims to fight against the pests and ensure high yields through a combination of means of protection without chemical inputs. They are not prohibited but are only used as a last resort, and in all cases the cost of the intervention must be less than the damage caused by the pest.
The IPM does not require more work on the farm and it is better distributed over the year as shown by a study of the French National Research Agency (ANR).
Yields remain at the same level than with the use of chemical inputs. According to a study by the Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania agro-ecology appears nearly three times more profitable than conventional farming system in the long-term.
Agro-ecology and IPM however cause a temporary reduction in the income of farmers (adaptation time of the crops that were dependent on inputs, fixed costs of the research model of integrated crop protection that suits best to the ecosystem of the farm).
To change the large-scale model it is essential given the brakes mentioned above, that farmers operate this transformation in network, in order to share the costs of research.