Stories tagged: pesticides

New Report: Pesticides Save UK Consumers £70 Billion a Year

A new report has examined the value of crop protection to consumers in the UK, and estimated that without pesticide products, food prices would rise by 40%.

With no pesticides to keep weeds, pests and diseases in check, crop yields would fall to half their current levels, leading to higher food prices, concludes the report. Annually, this increase would amount to some £70 billion in food costs.

faming ukReleased last Monday alongside the Chatham House Food Security 2010 conference, the report was written by economist Sean Rickard of Cranfield University who argues that the contribution of modern crop protection products extends beyond the higher living standards and health benefits resulting from lower food prices and more efficient food production, with benefits ranging from the discovery of new knowledge through to safeguarding the quality and enjoyment of the countryside.

The report, entitled The Value of Crop Protection – An Assessment of the Full Benefits for the Food Chain and Living Standards, was commissioned by the UK Crop Protection Association to highlight the risks of failing to support innovation and investment in crop protection technology.

In developed countries such as the UK, the report warns that higher food prices would create pressures on disposable incomes with adverse inflationary impacts on the economy, while consumers would also suffer a reduction in the health benefits associated with a wide choice of affordable fresh fruit and vegetables.

In developing countries, higher food prices would threaten the pace of development and in the world’s poorest regions they would lead to increased hunger and malnutrition.

The report’s headline conclusions are that in world without pesticides:

  • crop yields would fall to around half their current levels, with severe implications for employment, efficiency and profitability in farming and related food businesses;
  • security of food supply would be severely reduced and the cost of food would rise by at least 40% – an increase of some £70 billion per year in the UK;
  • not only would this place a burden on household budgets but this sum of money would also be withdrawn from expenditure on other sectors of the economy leading to the loss of businesses and employment;
  • to offset the loss of output, arable farmers would need to double their prices and livestock producers would need to increase prices by a third to cover the higher costs of feed. These higher prices represent the net value of plant protection products to the farming industry: in the UK the net value is of the order of £12 billion;
  • the supply of raw materials from UK farms to the domestic food processing and food manufacturing industry would fall and prices would rise. The industry would be forced to import a much larger proportion of its inputs and at much inflated prices, hitting the UK’s trade balance.
  • as well as adding £70 billion to the nation’s annual food bill, consumers would also suffer a reduction in the health benefits associated with a wide choice of affordable fresh fruit and vegetables; this particularly affects the poorest members of society for who spend a larger proportion of their disposable income on food;

Commenting on the report’s conclusions, CPA chief executive Dominic Dyer said:

This study sends a clear message that access to the most advanced farming technologies is essential, not only to maintain the quality, consistency and affordability of our food supply, but also to keep UK agriculture competitive and to safeguard jobs, growth and wealth creation within the rest of the food chain.

Safe Use Training for Kenyan Farmers

In the 1980’s, as more Kenyan farmers moved to using crop protection products as part of their growing practices, a clear need emerged for safe use training to ensure these farmers used their products safely and responsibly. In 1991, CropLife International launched its first Responsible Use Pilot Projects.

In Kenya, an initial phase focused on “training trainers” in order to build a sustainable local base of knowledge and enable large numbers to be trained in safe use quickly. The project evolved over time and expanded, initiating the use of innovative methodologies to reach multiple stakeholders.  A radio broadcast, “Using Chemicals Safely”, reached thousands of listeners and became one of the Kenyan Broadcasting Corporation’s most popular shows. Textbooks, drama, and song played an important role in rural schools as the importance of educating youngsters was established. This was complemented by further training of farmers and retailers, helping many reach the standards set to meet Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) standards, an important certification for exporters.

The success of the Kenya pilot project has led to the training of more ‘master trainers’ who are now involved in training activities in several countries in the Africa and Middle East region. Partnerships have been formed in several countries, including  with IFDC, the United States Agency for International Development, GTZ, the United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organization and Belgian Technical Cooperation to carry out these projects.

Providing training in Integrated Crop Management (ICM)

The plant science industry trains over 300,000 stakeholders every year in the safe use of its products and in integrated crop management (ICM).

Successful programs, like in India, have allowed farmers to improve the quality of their production and access new markets.

For example, Muvva Ramachandrao, a chili grower in Andra Pradesh, India, has been able to improve the quality of his chili crop, which he can now sell it at much higher prices.

He has reduced his loss from pest damage from 40 per cent to under 10 per cent and uses less pesticide and fertilizer. The improvement in quality is such that his chilies now command a premium price in a competitive market.

Improving Yields through Better Access to Seeds and Pesticides

GM crops and crop protection products can help increase yields by limiting losses.

Since 1996, the average yield impact across the total global area planted with insect resistant traits over the 11 year period has been +5.7 percent for corn traits (or an added 47 million tonnes of corn) and +11.1 percent for cotton traits (or an added 4.9 million tonnes).

In some countries, the benefits can be much higher, such as in India, where yields from cotton have increased by 54%.

Increasing Water Efficiency in Pesticides

Improving the formulation of pesticides and moving towards more precise irrigation and applications systems can help increase water efficiency.

For example, the use of air induction nozzles, which mix air with the spray liquid, can reduce water volumes used from 1,500-2,000 liters with conventional sprayers to 200-800 litres.

If the water-based sprays are combined with high precision application nozzles, water use can be brought to 10-50 liters per hectare.