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Replacing Chemicals with Biology: Phasing out Highly Hazardous Pesticides with Agroecology

  • Pesticide Action Network, Asia and the Pacific
Replacing Chemicals
with Biology:
Phasing out highly hazardous
pesticides with agroecology
by Meriel Watts
with Stephanie Williamson PAN International
by Meriel Watts
with Stephanie Williamson PAN International
Replacing Chemicals
with Biology:
Phasing out highly hazardous
pesticides with agroecology
Copyright © Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacic, 2015.
All rights reserved.
Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacic (PAN AP) holds the right to this publication. The publication may be cited
in part as long as PAN AP is properly acknowledged as the source and PAN AP is furnished with copies of the nal work
where the quotation or citation appears.
Comments and inquiries may be forwarded to:
Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Asia and the Pacic
P.O. Box 1170, Penang, 10850 Malaysia
Tel: +604-657 0271 / 656 0381 Fax: +604-6583960
Perpustakaan Negara Malaysia Cataloguing-in-Publication Data
Watts, Meriel, with Williamson, Stephanie
Replacing Chemicals with Biology: Phasing out highly hazardous pesticides with agroecology
ISBN 978-983-9381-70-2
Principle author: Meriel Watts, PhD, PAN Asia and the Pacic
Secondary author: Stephanie Williamson, PhD, PAN UK
Additional material: Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, Resmi Deepak, Peter Crosskey, Ryan E. Galt, Stephen R. Gliessman Erik Steen
Jensen, Juan Guillermo Londoño, Heather R. Putnam Aasha Ramesh, Germán Rivero, Davo Simplice Vodouhê
Editorial Assistance: Kristin Schafer, PAN North America
Design & Layout: Public Media Agency
Printer: Jutaprint
Published by PAN Asia and the Pacic on behalf of PAN International
Cover Photo: Woman farmer in SRI rice eld Cambodia CEDAC
By Meriel Watts (PAN Asia & the Pacic)
with Stephanie Williamson (PAN UK)
With chapter and case studies contributed by:
v Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, Senior Scientist, PAN North America
v Resmi Deepak, Agricultural Ocer, State Department of Agriculture, Kerala, India
v Peter Crosskey, freelance journalist and publisher of the Urban Food Chains subscription
v Ryan E. Galt, Associate Professor, Department of Human Ecology, Provost Fellow,
Agricultural Sustainability Institute, University of California, Davis
v Stephen R. Gliessman (Professor Emeritus of Agroecology, University of California, Santa
Cruz, and Board President, Community Agroecology Network)
v Prof. Erik Steen Jensen, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
v Juan Guillermo Londoño, Coee grower, Colombia
v Heather R. Putnam (Associate Director, Community Agroecology Network)
v Aasha Ramesh, consultant documenting the work of Society for Rural Education and
Development (SRED)
v Germán Rivero, agronomist
v Dr Davo Simplice Vodouhê, Director, Beninese Organisation for the Promotion of Organic
Agriculture (OBEPAB)
Replacing Chemicals with Biology:
Phasing out highly hazardous pesticides with agroecology
Using slashed weeds and other waste foliage to cover soil in organic ginger eld
Executive Summary
SECTION A: Why Replace Chemicals with Biology?
1.1 International concern about HHPs
1.2 Reasons for the concern about HHPs
1.3 Replacing HHPs with ecosystem approaches to pest management
Ecosystem approaches
2.1 International support for ecosystem approaches
2.2 What are ecosystem approaches?
2.3 Which one? Agroecology? Organic? Permaculture?
Sustainable Crop Intensication? Climate-Smart? Traditional? IPM
Agroecology makes sense: economically, socially
and environmentally
3.1 Yield increases or yield reductions?
3.2 Protability
3.3 Pesticide reduction
3.4 Resilience in the face of climate change
3.5 Food security and food sovereignty
3.6 Benets to women
3.7 Other socio-economic and environmental outcomes
SECTION B: How to Replace HHPS with Agroecology
Agroecology: Key principles and practices
4.1 Agroecological principles
4.2 Agroecological practices
Table of Contents
A global case study: System of Rice Intensication (SRI)
5.1 Main benets of SRI
5.2 Principles of SRI
5.3 SRI practices
5.4 SRI in Cambodia
Agroecology in Asia
6.1 India: Community Managed Sustainable Agriculture
6.2 India: Cultivating paddy without pesticides (Resmi Deepak)
6.3 India: Tamil Nadu Women’s Forum (Aasha Ramesh)
6.4 China: The rice-duck and rice-sh-frog systems
6.5 Philippines: Farmer-led sustainable organic agriculture
Agroecology in Africa
7.1 Benin: Productive and protable organic cotton
(Stephanie Williamson and Davo Simplice Vodouhê)
7.2 Kenya: Push-pull system of pest management
7.3 Sahel region: Biological control in pearl millet
7.4 Tanzania: Climate adaption
Agroecology in Latin America
8.1 Central America and Colombia: Growing coee without HHPs
(Stephanie Williamson)
8.2 Colombia: Agroecological coee production
(Stephanie Williamson, Juan Guillermo Londoño and
Germán Rivero, agronomist)
8.3 Nicaragua: Benecial forest microorganisms in coee production
(Heather R. Putnam and Stephen R. Gliessman)
8.4 Brazil: Large-scale organics combined with agroforestry
8.5 Costa Rica: Reduced pesticide use in vegetables (Ryan E. Galt)
Agroecology in the industrialized world
9.1 France: New law to promote agroecology (Peter Crosskey)
9.2 France: Agroecology in a joint farming enterprise
9.3 Europe: Cereal and legume intercropping
(Erik Steen Jensen and Stephanie Williamson)
9.4 USA: M&M Heath Farms, South Idaho
9.5 USA: Alvarez Farms, Washington
SECTION C: The Way Forward
National policy – next steps
10.1 A three-step process
10.2 Policies that provide an enabling environment
10.3 Removing the policies that hinder
International implications (Marcia Ishii-Eiteman)
11.1 Institutionalizing supportive policies: Role of international actors
11.2 Research, extension and education
11.3 Investing in agroecology: Role of funding agencies
and foundations
11.4 International obstacles hindering scaling up and scaling out
11.5 Policies to democratize the food system: A requirement for
successful transformation to agroecology
Further Resources
Purpose of book
Adverse eects of highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs) on people and the environment have been
a global concern for many years. In 2006, this was clearly expressed by the FAO Council when it
recommended a progressive ban on HHPs. The concern crystallized at UNEP’s Fourth International
Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM4) in Nairobi in 2012, with the submission of a
conference room paper supported by at least 65 countries and organizations. The proposed
resolution included supporting “a progressive ban on HHPs and their substitution with safer
alternatives”. While the resolution was not immediately adopted, countries participating in
subsequent regional meetings of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management
(SAICM) have reiterated concern about HHPs and called for more information on ecosystem-based
alternatives. At SAICM’s Open-Ended Working Group in December 2014, following a call by the
entire African region for a global alliance to phase-out these chemicals, it was agreed a proposal
would be developed for ICCM4.
The purpose of this publication is to provide information drawn from all regions to assist
countries in replacing HHPs with ecosystem-based approaches to pest1 and crop management
– replacing chemicals with biology. It draws together previously published and new material in a
form that is accessible for policy- and decision-makers at the national and international level, as
well as providing practical guidance at the farm and farm-support level.
It also points out that use, and phasing out, of HHPs must be seen in the context not only
of human health and environmental impacts and costs, but also in the context of food security,
poverty reduction, and climate change.
1 In this book, the term pest is used to describe not just insect pests, but also weeds, crop diseases, and other
invertebrates and vertebrates that can cause problems for farmers.
PAN would like to thank all those who contributed case studies to this publication. PAN would also
like to acknowledge all those farmers organizations, NGOs, authors and scientists who provided
information directly, whose work has been helpful in drawing this publication together, and/
or whose work has helped shift farmers away from using highly hazardous pesticides and into
agroecology, including:
Action Aid
Asian Peasants’ Coalition
Beninese Organisation for the Promotion of Organic Agriculture (OBEPAB)
Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Secunderabad
Community Agroecological Network
Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance
Global Justice Now
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP)
International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)
Latin American Scientic Society of Agroecology (SOCLA)
La Via Campesina
Tamil Nadu Womens Forum
Dr Robert Mensah, Australian Cotton Research Institute
Mr Simon Ferrigno, organic and sustainable cotton expert, UK
Mr Germán Riveros, agroecological agronomist, Colombia
Mr Juan Guillermo Londoño, coee farmer, Colombia
and FAO
We are grateful to the Bread for the World whose support has made this publication possible. Moreover,
this document has also been produced with the nancial assistance of the Swedish International
Development Cooperation Agency, SIDA, which has been arranged by the Swedish Chemicals Agency,
KemI. The views herein shall not necessarily be taken to reect the ocial opinion of SIDA or KemI.
Permaculture food forest, Malawi. June Walker
Executive Summary
“If we do persist with business as usual, the world’s people cannot be fed over the next half-century.
It will mean more environmental degradation, and the gap between the haves and have-nots
will expand. We have an opportunity now to marshal our intellectual resources to avoid that sort
of future. Otherwise we face a world nobody would want to inhabit.”
Professor Robert T. Watson, Director of the IAASTD
Pesticides, designed to kill living organisms and
deliberately released into the environment, now
contaminate all parts of the world – soil, water, air,
fog, snow, ice, the bark of trees, the Arctic, grasses
high in the Himalayas and wildlife everywhere.
They also contaminate people across the globe,
and ordinary everyday exposures through use, drift
and residues in food and water have resulted in a
huge human toll including acute eects, chronic
health problems and deaths.
Recent eld surveys show that a very high
proportion of farmers and agricultural workers
exposed to pesticides through their work are
suering acute health eects: in Pakistan, 100
percent of women picking cotton after pesticides
were sprayed, in Bangladesh 85 percent of
applicators, in Burkina Faso 82 percent of farmers and in Brazil 45 percent of agricultural workers surveyed.
Agricultural production also suers from loss of pollinators and the benecial insects that provide natural
control of pests.
On top of the sheer magnitude of the human suering involved, there is a phenomenal cost to
society. UNEP’s 2013 “Cost of Inaction report estimated that the accumulated health costs of acute
injury alone to smallholder pesticide users in sub-Saharan Africa will be approximately US $97 billion by
2020. This is not a problem conned to low-income countries: the external cost (i.e. to humans and the
environment) of pesticide use in the United States is estimated to be US $ 9.6 billion annually.
After decades of concern based on community experiences and mounting scientic evidence of
the human health and environmental impacts of pesticides, the global community is now poised to
take action to phase out highly hazardous pesticides. In 2006, the text of the Strategic Approach to
International Chemicals Management (SAICM) recognized the need for action to reduce dependency
on pesticides worldwide, including phasing out highly toxic pesticides and promoting safer alternatives.
Responding to this the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)_ Council recommended a global phase-
out of highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs).
We have reached a turning point for agriculture: it is a moment when tremendous changes can
be made to address not only the damage inicted by HHPs but also climate change, loss of biodiversity
Farming is at a crossroad
and lack of food security and sovereignty – all
inextricably interwoven. As the FAO Director-
General, José Graziano da Silva said in Paris in
February 2015:
“The model of agricultural production that
predominates today is not suitable for the
new food security challenges of the 21st
century. … Since food production is not
a sucient condition for food security, it
means that the way we are producing is no
longer acceptable.
It is counter-productive to try to prop up
this current, failing model by replacing HHPs with
other toxic pesticides that also inict harm on
humans and environment. There are much safer,
more benecial and viable ecosystem-based
approaches to pest management. Agroecology,
long considered the foundation of sustainable
agriculture, is the science and practice of applying
ecological concepts, principles and knowledge to
the study, design and management of sustainable
agroecosystems. It replaces chemicals with
biology in farming.
Agroecology makes sense
There is widespread high-level support for
replacing the currently dominant chemical-input
approach to agriculture that emerged in the 1960s
with a biological approach. Since 2009, a number
of UN agencies and reports have voiced support
for moving forward with agroecology. These
include the IAASTD (International Assessment of
Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology
for Development), the current and previous UN
Special Rapporteur on the right to food, United
Nations Conference on Trade and Development
and the FAO international and regional symposia
on agroecology. Over 70 international scientists
and scholars working in sustainable agriculture
and food systems have called for a UN system-
wide initiative on agroecology as the central
strategy for addressing climate change and
building resilience in the face of water crises
across the globe.
“Replacing Chemicals with Biology:
Phasing out Highly Hazardous Pesticides with
Agroecology” provides powerful evidence from
The current model of industrial agriculture is a dead end
every region of the world of improved yields,
greater protability for farmers, improved health,
improved food security and sovereignty, greater
resilience to adverse climate events, better
opportunities for women farmers, improved
biodiversity and social benets such as better
cooperation between farmers and within
communities. For example, farmers practicing
Community Managed Sustainable Agriculture in
India nd that their costs have been slashed by a
third whilst yields have been maintained.
There are seven core principles of
agroecology which aim to develop and maintain
an agroecosystem that works with nature, not
against it – creating a balance that keeps pests in
check. These principles involve:
Adapting to local environments
Providing the most favourable soil conditions
for plant growth
Promoting biodiversity
Enhancing benecial biological interactions
Minimizing losses of energy and water
Minimizing the use of non renewable
external resources
Maximizing the use of farmers’ knowledge
and skills
The core principles are reected in a number
of agroecological practices, such as integrating
livestock into cropping farms, agroforestry, using
leguminous cover crops to protect the soil and
supply nitrogen, using compost and mulches,
intercropping and optimizing times of planting
and weeding. Agroecological farmers sometimes
use biological controls and attractant traps to
reduce pest pressure and work cooperatively with
other farmers. Pesticides, whether biological or
chemical, are used only as a last resort. The exact
practices that farmers use depends very much on
their on-farm realities and social conditions: there
is no prescribed ‘recipe’ approach as there is with
Case studies from Asia, Africa, Latin America
and industrialized countries on coee, cotton,
grains, legumes and vegetables – show the power
Woman farmer discussing her ‘no-pesticide farm’, Vietnam. Centre for Sustainable Rural Development (SRD)
of farmer-to-farmer transmission of knowledge
and skills. Farmer Field Schools, a system of
learning developed by the FAO which is based
on farmer experimentation and learning in
farmers’ own elds, have emerged as a powerful
mechanism of learning about agroecology for
National policy changes
There is much that national governments can and
should do to assist the uptake of agroecology
by farmers. The rst big step is to challenge
assumptions that current levels of dependency on
synthetic chemical pesticides are necessary, and
that large-scale, specialized farms highly reliant
on agrochemical and fossil fuel inputs are the
best way to provide food for all. On the contrary,
there is clear evidence that small, diversied,
agroecologically-managed farms can be just
as productive overall – or more so – than input-
intensive and monocultural systems. Countries
need to change their policies to put agroecology
at the centre of their approach to agriculture.
Several countries have already taken the rst
steps, including Brazil, Ecuador and France.
National policies need to protect small
farmers, their ownership of land and their access to
water and seeds. They need to ensure equal rights
for women in every sphere. An FAO report found
that ensuring women farmers are adequately
resourced could increase agricultural output in
low-income countries between 2.5 and 4 percent,
and reduce the number of undernourished
people by 100-150 million. Governments need to
invest in agricultural knowledge by supporting
research based on farmer needs and experiences,
including farmer participatory research, as well as
extension services and farmer networks.
National economic policies must strengthen
local food systems, re-localise markets to reduce
wastage during transport and storage and
improve farmers’ ability to sell, and improve access
to credit. Policies are needed to prevent global
food retail chain domination of domestic markets.
Such domination allows these chains to determine
prices that result in farmers being underpaid and
left struggling to survive. Full-cost accounting
for agriculture would ensure the external costs
of chemical-based production are taken into
account. Replacing subsidies on agrochemicals
with nancial credits for agroecology (such as soil
carbon sequestration) would level the playing
Changes to pesticide regulatory systems are
also needed. The presumption that a pesticide
should be registered if it meets certain hazard or
risk criteria, regardless of whether it is needed,
should be replaced by the presumption that
pests, weeds and diseases should be managed
by the least hazardous method and chemicals
registered only if need can be demonstrated.
Existing registrations should cease when
nonchemical methods or less hazardous
pesticides can be substituted.
International actions
International policy action is also needed. Steps
must be taken to reverse the harmful impacts
of unregulated trade and redirect misguided
international development policies and
initiatives that hinder local, national and regional
transformation towards agroecological food
and farming systems. There is a need to reform,
and in some cases dismantle, institutions such
as regional and global trade arrangements and
ownership laws that hinder the scaling up and out
of agroecology. Re-structuring and re-alignment
of these institutions is needed to support state and
non-state actors’ obligations to respect, protect,
and full universal human rights to food, health
and a safe working environment, and to advance
equitable and sustainable development goals.
Intellectual property regimes that privatized seed
resources – transferring ownership to commercial
interests and criminalizing farmers for seed
saving – need to be reoriented to protect farmers.
Corporate inuence over public policy and agri-
food systems must be curtailed.
UN agencies, bi- and multi- lateral
development institutions, international research
institutes, private and public donor agencies
need to prioritize participatory community-based
farmer-led agroecological research, extension
and education. There needs to be an FAO and
a UN-wide adoption of agroecology as the
central direction of agriculture. All UN agencies
can contribute in important ways in assisting
governments to bring their focus to agroecology.
The World Bank and international nancial
institutions should redirect the focus of their
agricultural and poverty-reduction programs to
assist countries in transitioning towards equitable
and sustainable agroecological systems. Inter-
national and regional research institutional
arrangements should prioritize agroecological
research, extension and education. Multilateral
and bilateral funding agencies as well as private
foundations have an essential role to play in
supporting the scaling up and scaling out of
International actors must rmly commit
themselves to overcoming the political, ins-
titutional and market constraints that stand in the
way of widespread adoption of agroecology. It is
time to restrain corporate power and inuence
over public agencies and democratize the agri-
food system at all levels and across all relevant
scaling up agroecological practices can
simultaneously increase farm productivity
and food security, improve incomes and rural
livelihoods, and reverse the trend towards
species loss and genetic erosion.”
Olivier de Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the right
to food, 2011
Organic cabbages, Alajuela Costa Rica. Fernando Ramirez
Why Replace Chemicals with Biology?
Rice elds, China
1. Introduction
“The model of agricultural production that predominates today is not suitable for the new food
security challenges of the 21st century. … Since food production is not a sucient condition for
food security, it means that the way we are producing is no longer acceptable.
FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva, 2015 2
Agricultural chemicals, including fertilizers and
pesticides, are among the largest volume uses of
chemicals worldwide.3 Pesticides are designed to
kill living organisms and are deliberately released
into the environment, mostly in a broad-scale
approach that results in only a small proportion
of the chemical reaching its intended target
organism.4 Adverse eects of pesticides include
acute and chronic impacts on human health,
livestock, wildlife, pollinators, benecial insects
such as natural enemies/biological controls,5 and
other invertebrates and microbes both terrestrial
and aquatic – all of which are essential to a stable,
healthy and productive ecosystem. Pesticides now
contaminate environmental media across the
globe, including soil, surface- and ground- waters,
air, rain, fog, snow, and living organisms. Residues
have been documented from grasses high on the Himalayas to the bark of trees in many countries.
The adverse eects of pesticides are sometimes very evident and sometimes invisible. Impacts are
particularly widespread and concerning in low-income countries where agriculture is often the largest
economic sector and pesticides account for the most signicant chemical releases. The costs to society
of such pesticide use are phenomenal. A 2013 UNEP report estimated that the health costs of pesticide
use in Africa is greater than the total ocial development assistance to general health care in the region
Ladybug larva eating aphids, a natural biological
control often destroyed by insecticides
2 International Forum on Agriculture and Climate Change, Paris February 20th 2015.
3 UNEP. 2012. Global Chemicals Outlook: Towards Sound Management of Chemicals.
4 Pimentel D. 1995. Amounts of pesticides reaching target pests; environmental impacts and ethics. J Agric Environ Ethics
5 The term ‘natural enemies’ is used to describe organisms existing naturally in an agroecosystem and providing control
of pests; the term ‘biological control’ is used where organisms are bred or eld-collected and deliberately released
to provide control of pests. The actual organisms may be the same. For example, the seven-spotted ladybird beetle,
Coccinella septempunctata, which feeds on aphids, whiteies, bollworms and other pests, is found naturally in the crop
canopy but can also be bred and released for greater pest control.
(excluding HIV/AIDS).6 Even in high-income
countries the cost is huge: the US alone experiences
an estimated US $9.6 billion in environmental and
societal damages from pesticides every year.7
Yet many studies show that this widespread
chemical use is not necessary to “feed the world.
Ecosystem-based approaches to food production,
such as organics and agroecology,8 are more than
capable of producing yields to provide adequate
nutrition to every person on earth, using land
under current cultivation with far greater resource
eciency and reliability.9 The world is not short
of food10 but it is short of production and
distribution systems that enable those who need
food to access it fairly. In 2011-13, an estimated
842 million people were undernourished across
the globe.11 More than 70 percent of those lacking
food live in rural areas in low-income countries;
many of them are low paid farm workers or
subsistence farmers.
About 70 percent of the food we consume
globally comes from smallholder farmers.12 In
Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, that gure rises to 80
percent.13 An estimated 84 percent of the world’s
farms are two hectares or less in size. These small
farms produce a higher share of the world’s food
relative to the share of land they use, with higher
yields than larger farms within the same countries
and agro-ecological settings.14 Ecient use of
land, water, biodiversity and other resources
enables traditional family and smallholder farms to
achieve higher productivity per hectare than large
industrial farms.15
Yet small farms occupy less than one quarter
of agricultural land, and the holdings are getting
smaller.16 This represents a serious threat to food
production and availability worldwide, since small
family farms are vital to food security.17 These
smallholdings are under increasing pressure
from market players seeking to control resources
such as land, water and labour, encouraged by
some government and international institutions.
Enough that they have to deal with the diculties
and disasters wrought by climate change.
6 UNEP. 2013. Costs of Inaction on the Sound Management of Chemicals. United Nations Environment Programme, Geneva.
7 Pimentel D, Burges M. 2014. Environmental and economic costs of the application of pesticides primarily in the United
States. In: Pimentel D, Peshin R. 2014. Integrated Pest Management: Pesticide Problems, Vol 3. Springer, New York.
8 Agroecology may be a new concept to some readers. Long considered the foundation of sustainable agriculture, it is the
science and practice of applying ecological concepts, principles and knowledge to the study, design and management
of sustainable agroecosystems. It is touched on again in Chapter 2 and described more fully in Chapter 4. De Schutter
O. 2013. Agroecology: A solution to the crises of food systems and climate change. In: UNCTAD, 2013, Wake Up before it
is Too Late: Make Agriculture Truly Sustainable Now for Food Security in a Changing Climate, United Nations Conference on
Trade and Development.
9 Badgley C, Moghtader J, Quintero E, Zakem E, Chappelli MJ, Avilés-Vázquez K, Samulon A, Perfecto I. 2006. Organic
agriculture and the global food supply. Renew Agric Food Sys 22(2):86-108.
10 FAO. 2014. The State of Food and Agriculture; Innovation in family farming. FAO, Rome.
11 FAO, IFAD, WFP. 2013. The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2013. The multiple dimensions of food security. FAO, Rome.
12 Wolfenson KD. 2013. Coping with the food and agriculture challenge: smallholders’ agenda. Preparations and outcomes
of the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20). FAO, Rome.
13 HLPE. 2013. Investing in smallholder agriculture for food security. A report by the High Level Panel of Experts on Food
Security and Nutrition of the Committee on World Food Security, Rome.
14 FAO 2014, op cit.
15 Parmentier S. 2014. Scaling-up Agroecological Approaches: What, Why and How? Oxfam-Solidarity, Belgium.
16 GRAIN. 2014. Hungry for Land: Small farmers feed the world with less than a quarter of all farmland. http://www.grain.
17 FAO 2014, op cit.
“Business-as-usual scenarios indicate a
further increase in the already substantial
negative contribution of agriculture in
global environmental change.
IAASTD Global Report, p257
Agricultural productivity can be better
improved through agroecology than it can through
continued and increasing use of pesticides and
other inecient industrial inputs. FAO experts
note that sustainable increases in productivity
can only be achieved through “conserving,
protecting and enhancing natural resources and
ecosystems, improving the livelihoods and well-
being of people and social groups and bolstering
their resilience – especially to climate change and
volatile markets”.18 Farmers need government
policies and international agreements that:
Support family ownership of productive land
Support innovation in agroecological
Support access by women to land and other
Increase local food availability
Ensure equitable access to health care, clean
water, sanitation and education, and access to
local markets19
Agricultural systems, even the most traditional
ones, are constantly changing over time in
response to a number of external pressures.20
Trying to address HHPs in isolation from the
powerful environmental, economic and social
factors intertwined with agriculture will not work.
Food production is aected by, and in turn aects,
climate change, biodiversity, food security and
food sovereignty. There is no point producing
more food if it does not reach or provide adequate
nutrition to those who need it. Thus in addressing
HHPs, we need to look towards agricultural policies,
processes and practices that will withstand climate
change and at the same time reduce contributions
to climate change, that will enhance rather than
18 FAO 2014, op cit.
19 FAO 2014, op cit.
20 Altieri MA, Funes-Monzote FR, Petersen P. 2012. Agroecologically ecient agricultural systems for smallholder farmers:
contributions to food sovereignty. Agron Sustain Dev 32:1-13.
“Nothing comes closer to the sustainable
food production paradigm than family
FAO, 2014. The State of Food and Agriculture
Small-scale family farms like this one in Latin America produce about 70 percent of our food.
destroy biodiversity, and above all ensure that safe,
nutritious food gets into the hands of all.
Food wastage – from post-harvest spoilage to
consumer throw away – is a huge problem across
the world. About 1.3 billion tons of food – a third
of all food produced for human consumption – is
wasted. Food waste by consumers in Europe and
North America is estimated to be about 95-115
kg per person per year. In sub-Saharan Africa and
South/Southeast Asia, in contrast, the gure is
only 6-11 kg; in those regions most loss occurs
from damage and spillage during harvesting, and
spoilage immediately post harvest and during
transfer to markets.21 Reducing food waste at all
points in the food distribution chain, particularly in
high-income countries, could make a tremendous
contribution to food security if combined with
shifts in food distribution and access.
Participants in the 1996 World Food Summit
dened food security this way:
“all people, at all times, have physical and
economic access to sucient, safe and
nutritious food to meet their dietary needs
and food preferences for an active and
healthy life”. 22
However, as eorts to achieve food security
have failed to deliver on this promise, smallholder
and peasant farmers picked up the concept of food
sovereignty. Originally developed by the Mexican
government in 1983 as the rst objective in its
National Food Programme, it later became a central
organizing concept for the smallholder farmer and
peasant organization, La Via Campesina.23 Food
sovereignty builds on an understanding that food
security cannot be achieved without meaningful
active involvement of people and communities,
as well as government ocials, in developing food
production systems that are ecologically, socially,
economically and culturally appropriate to their
particular circumstances. In 2004, the UN Special
Rapporteur on the right to food, Jean Ziegler,
introduced the concept to the UN Economic and
Social Council.24
While this book cannot address all food and
farming issues in-depth, it can draw attention to
how certain agricultural policies and practices
support or undermine production of safe nutritious
food, accessible by all. It pays special attention to
showing how phasing out HHPs can help meet
… the future of food needs to be much
more than increasing production to end
hunger, and food security depends
not only on food availability at the right
place at the right time, but also on access,
utilization, and stability.
Steve Gliessman & Pablo Tittonell, Wageningen
University. 2015. Agroecology for food security and
nutrition. Agroecol Sustain Food Syst 39(2):131-3
21 FAO. 2011. Global food losses and food waste – Extent, causes and prevention. FAO, Rome.
22 FAO. 1996. World Food Summit Plan of Action.
23 Edelman M. 2014. The next stage of the food sovereignty debate. Dialog Human Geog 4(2):182-4.
24 Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The right to food. Report submitted by the Special Rapporteur on the right to
food, Jean Ziegler, in accordance with Commission on Human Rights resolution 2003/25. E/CN.4/2004/10. 9 February
This smallholder farm produces cotton, maize, tomato
and mango, Ethiopia PAN UK
these goals – if the replacement is agroecology
rather than another chemical pesticide. But
mainly, this book will illustrate how agroecology
is now supported at the highest international
policy levels – and how eective it is in the eld.
It provides information that can assist all countries
– policy and decision makers, extension agents
and farmers – in replacing HHPs with ecosystem-
based approaches to pest and crop management.
It provides a recipe for the future.
1.1 International concern about HHPs
Global concern about the adverse eects of
HHPs is clearly increasing with each passing year.
The dangers of these chemicals rst came to the
attention of the public in 1963, when scientist
Rachel Carson published her book Silent Spring.
The book drew widespread public and policymaker
attention to the environmental and health impacts
of widespread use of pesticides. The concerns over
HHPs continued with the formation, in 1982, of
Pesticides Action Network (PAN), which focused its
rst international campaign on the global phase-
out of the “Dirty Dozen pesticides (see side bar).25
Many of these highly hazardous pesticides are now
obsolete; some others are banned globally under
the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic
Pollutants; some are listed under the Rotterdam
Convention on Prior Informed Consent; and the
remainder are in the review stages of the technical
committees of the two Conventions. Those that
are still in use in some places are widely banned in
many other countries.
Despite this, many more HHPs remain in
widespread use, and concerns continue to be
voiced internationally. For example:
• In February 2006, the Strategic Approach
to International Chemicals Management
(SAICM), adopted at the rst International
Banned/restricted by Stockholm
On PIC List
ethylene dibromide
methyl parathion
In process
Paraquat (formulation) – Rotterdam
25 Rengam SV, Nair P. 2013. Realise, Resist, Reclaim: Celebrating 30 Years of PAN AP. Pesticide Action Network, Penang. The
original Dirty Dozen list was drawn up in 1985, with aldicarb added in 1986.
Endosulfan, now listed under the Stockholm Conven-
tion, illegally traded in Cambodia. PANAP
Conference on Chemicals Management
(ICCM1), recognized the need to reduce
the use of and risk from highly hazardous
pesticides, and replace them with safer
• In December 2006, the FAO Council
recommended that activities to reduce risk
could include a progressive ban on highly
hazardous pesticides.27
As a result of that recommendation, in
2007 the WHO/FAO Joint Meeting on Pesticide
Management (JMPM) developed criteria for
identifying HHPs and recommended that a global
list be developed.28
• Theconcern crystallizedontheinternational
policy stage at UNEP’s Third International
Conference on Chemicals Management
(ICCM3), in Nairobi in 2012, with a conference
room paper submitted29 and supported30 by
at least 65 countries and organizations. The
resolution proposed in the paper included
supporting “a progressive ban on HHPs and
their substitution with safer alternatives”. The
resolution was not adopted because some
countries needed more time to consider it.
However, three of the intercessional regional
SAICM meetings held since ICCM3, involving
more than 140 countries, reiterated concern
about HHPs and called for more information
on ecosystem-based approaches to pest
management as alternatives to HHPs.
26 UNEP. 2006. Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management. SAICM texts and resolutions of the
International Conference on Chemicals Management. UNEP, Geneva.
27 FAO. 2006. Report. Hundred and Thirty-First Session of the Council. Rome, 20-25 November 2006.
28 FAO. WHO. 2007. Report of the 1st FAO/WHO Joint Meeting on Pesticide Management and the 3rd Session of the FAO
Panel of Experts on Pesticide Management. 22-26 October 2007, Rome.leadmin/templates/
29 Draft resolution on Highly Hazardous Pesticides: submission by Antigua & Barbuda, Armenia, Bhutan, Dominican
Republic, Egypt, Guyana, International Trade Union Congress, IPEN, Iraq, Kenya, Kiribati, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Mongolia,
Nepal, Nigeria, Peru, Pesticide Action Network, Republic of Moldova, St Lucia, Tanzania, Tunisia and Zambia. SAICM/
30 Other countries that spoke in support of the resolution included Zambia on behalf of the whole African region, Burundi,
Colombia, Iran, Nepal, Palestine, and Russia. Mongolia proposed replacing pesticides with biological means and bio-
Paraquat, the only remaining ‘Dirty Dozen pesticide, recommend for listing under the Rotterdam Convention, was
used on this eld in the Mekong Delta, in Vietnam. Research Centre for Rural Develeopment, An Giang University.
• In December 2014, at SAICM’s Open-Ended
Working Group the entire African region
called for a Global Alliance to Phase-out HHPs.
This call was widely supported, and resulted
in agreement to develop a proposal for such
an approach for ICCM4.
1.2 Reasons for the concern about HHPs
Despite the bans, restrictions and withdrawals of
a small number of HHPs over the last few decades,
many others are still in use, and damage to human
health and the environment continues to occur in
both low and high income countries.
Human health eects
Acute eects on health range from seemingly mild
symptoms to much more severe impacts, including
chronic disability or death. Long-term eects may
occur with no acute symptoms and little outward
eect, yet can still undermine a person’s health
for the rest of their life, and may also aect future
Some harm results from negligence and
shortage of resources, for example the death of
23 school children in India in 2013 when their free
midday meal was cooked with oil contaminated
by monocrotophos. This tragic incident was
Box 1.1: SAICM texts on HHPs
Dubai Declaration:
6. The need to take concerted action
is accentuated by a wide range
of chemical safety concerns at
the international level, including
dependency on pesticides in
Global Plan of Action:
8. It is therefore critical for all
stakeholders to take appropriate
action on global priorities. These
include, among others:
h. Promoting alternatives in order to
reduce and phase out highly toxic
Work Areas Addressing Risk Reduction
Highly toxic pesticides risk management
and reduction:
25 Base national decisions on highly
toxic pesticides on an evaluation
of their intrinsic hazards and
anticipated local exposure to them.
26. Prioritize the procurement of least
hazardous pest control measures . . .
27 Promote development and use
of reduced-risk pesticides and
substitution for highly toxic
pesticides as well as eective and
nonchemical alternative means of
pest control.
29. Promote integrated pest and vector
114. Improve access to and use
of information on pesticides,
particularly highly toxic pesticides,
and promote alternative safer pest
control measures through networks
such as academia.
Children are very vulnerable to the eects of pesticides.
thought to be the result of storing the oil in an
empty monocrotophos container. The World
Health Organization (WHO) had advised India in
2009 to consider banning monocrotophos.31
Some harm results from the pervasiveness
of pesticides in air, drinking water and food, and
there is particular concern about the exposure
of the unborn foetus or newly born child to
neurotoxins such as organophosphate insecticides
(OPs), resulting in neurodevelopmental decits.
Numerous studies on animals have shown that
in utero or neonate exposure to OPs, particularly
the insecticide chlorpyrifos, adversely aects
neurodevelopment.32 Some studies show that
inhibition of chlolinesterase can interfere with
brain development leading to permanent brain
damage.33 One US study found that as little as
4.6 parts per trillion34 of chlorpyrifos in umbilical
cord blood during gestation was associated
with a drop of 1.4 percent in a child’s IQ, and 2.8
percent of its working memory.35 Exposure in
agricultural areas is pervasive; metabolites of
organophosphate insecticides, for example, have
been found in the urine of 94 percent of farm and
non-farm children in the Bang Rieng agricultural
community in Thailand.36 There are signicant
societal costs of such exposures: Dr David Bellinger
of the USA’s Children’s Hospital Boston concluded
that the impact of OPs on children is responsible
for a signicant lowering of IQ across the whole
US population;37 there would be a similar eect
in every other country where use of OPs is still
Signicant harm results worldwide from
intentional ingestion of pesticides with suicidal
“Investigations in Ecuador found
that prenatal exposure to pesticides is
associated with severe adverse eects on
brain development in children, even at low
levels of exposure.
Laborde et al. 2015. Children’s health in Latin America:
the inuence of environmental exposures. Environ Health
Perspect 123(3):201-9
31 Reuters. 2013. World Health Organization had asked India to ban toxin that killed school children. July 22, 2013.
32 For example: (i) Flaskos J. 2012. The developmental neurotoxicity of organophosphorus insecticides: A direct role for the
oxon metabolites. Toxicol Lett 209(1):86-93. (ii) Muñoz-Quezada MT, Lucero BA, Barr DB, Steenland K, Levy K, Ryan PB,
Iglesias V, Alvarado S, Concha C, Rojas E, Vega C. 2013. Neurodevelopmental eects in children associated with exposure
to 4 organophosphate pesticides: A systematic review. Neurotoxicology 39:158-68. (iii) Eskenazi B, Marks AR, Bradman
A, Harley K, Barr DB, Johnson C, Morga N, Jewell NP. 2007. Organophosphate pesticide exposure and neurodevelopment
in young Mexican-American children. Environ Health Perspect 115(5):792-8.
33 For example: London L, Beseler C, Bouchard MF, Bellinger DC, Colosio C, Grandjean P, Harari R, Kootbodien T, Kromhout
H, Little F, Meijster T, Moretto A, Rohlman DS, Stallones L. 2012. Neurobehavioural and neurodevelopmental eects of
pesticide exposures. Neurotoxicology 33(4):887-96.
34 Although this seems to be an extremely small amount, natural hormones, and chemicals that mimic them (known
as endocrine disruptors) have eects in the parts per trillion range. See Gore et al, 2014, Introduction to Endocrine
Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs), A Guide For Public Interest Organizations and Policy-Makers. Endocrine Society and IPEN.
35 Rauh VA, Arunajadai S, Horton M, Perera F, Hoepner L, Barr DB, Whyatt R. 2011. Seven-year neurodevelopmental scores
and prenatal exposure to chlorpyrifos, a common agricultural pesticide. Environ Health Perspect 119(8):1196-201.
36 Panuwet P, Siriwong W, Prapamontol T, Ryan B, Fiedler N, Robson MG, Barr DB. 2012. Agricultural pesticide management
in Thailand: status and population health risk. Environ Sci Pol 17:72-81.
37 Bellinger D. 2012. A strategy for comparing the contributions of environmental chemicals and other risk factors to
children’s neurodevelopment. Environ Health Perspect 120(4):501-7.
intent. The estimates of global suicide deaths from
pesticides range from 186,00038 to 371,00039
every year, accounting for about 1/3rd of suicide
deaths overall, and making pesticides the single
most common means of suicide.40 41 In China,
there are about 117,000 suicide deaths from
pesticides annually.42 The fatality rate from
pesticide ingestion is high: banning HHPs in some
countries has been successful in bringing down the
death rate: the banning of monocrotophos, methyl-
parathion, methamidophos and endosulfan by Sri
Lanka, for example, resulted in a 50 percent drop
in the suicide rate without reducing agricultural
output.43 Suicide poisonings with WHO Class II
pesticides dimethoate, fenthion and paraquat
(the latter with a case fatality rate of 42.7 percent),
however, remained a problem.44
Harm from occupational exposure
Considerable harm also results from ordinary
occupational use, in both high- and low-income
countries, but most particularly in the latter.
Pesticides have been poisoning farmworkers,
their families and communities for over 60 years.
Yet there is still no accurate estimate of the degree
of human suering from exposure to pesticides.
The most authoritative study available today is one
published in the World Health Statistics Quarterly
in 1990, using data derived in the 1980s – nearly 30
An FAO survey in Burkina Faso (2010),
under the auspices of the Rotterdam
Convention, showed that 82% of farmers
have experienced symptoms of pesticide
What is pesticide poisoning?
38 Prüss-Ustün A, Vickers C, Haeiger P, Bertollini R. 2011. Knowns and unknowns on burden of disease due to chemicals: a
systematic review. Environ Health 10:9.
39 Gunnell D, Eddleston M, Phillips MR, Konradsen F. 2007. The global distribution of fatal pesticide self-poisoning:
Systematic review. BMC Pub Health 7:357.
40 Ibid.
41 WHO. 2014. Preventing Suicide: A Global Imperative. World Health Organization, Geneva.
42 Hao R, Wang Y, Wu Z, Song H. 2013. Chemical poisoning-related injury in China. Lancet 382:1327-8.
43 Manuweeera G, Eddleston M, Egodage S, Buckley NA. 2008. Do targeted bans of insecticides to prevent deaths from
suicide result in reduced agricultural output? Environ Health Perspect 116:492-5.
44 Eddleston M, Adhikari S, Egodage S, Ranganath H, Mohamed F, Manuweera G, Azher S, Jayamanne S, Juzczak E, Sheri
MR, Dawson AH, Buckley NA. 2012. Eects of a provincial ban of two toxic organophosphorus insecticides on pesticide
poisoning hospital admissions. Clin Toxicol (Phila) 50(3):202-9.
Children - innocent victims of pesticides that can alter
intellectual development. Romy Quijano
years ago. This study45 estimated that there were
possibly one million cases of serious unintentional
pesticide poisonings each year, and an additional
two million cases of people hospitalized for suicide
attempts with pesticides. The author noted that
this necessarily reected only a fraction of the
real problem, and estimated that there could be
as many as 25 million agricultural workers in the
developing world suering from occupational
pesticide poisoning each year, though most
incidents are not recorded and most patients
do not seek medical attention.46 A more recent
surveillance exercise in Central America indicated
a 98 percent rate of underreporting of pesticide
poisonings, with a regional estimate of 400,000
poisonings per year, 76 percent of the incidents
being work related.47
Lack of data precludes any realistic estimate
of the extent of chronic eects from exposure
to pesticides. The health outcomes linked to
pesticide exposure include cancers; reproductive,
respiratory, immune and neurological eects; and
much more. In 1990, the World Health Organization
estimated an annual 735,000 cases of specic
chronic eects linked to pesticides globally, and
about 37,000 cases in low-income countries
alone.48 These numbers can be expected to be
considerably higher now, with the phenomenal
increase in pesticide use, especially in low-income
countries, and our improved understanding of
the links between pesticides and chronic health
conditions – such as their inuence on metabolic
There is no reason to assume that the global
pesticide poisoning rate has diminished. The
gure of 25 million cited above was based on an
average of 3 percent of agricultural workers in
low-income countries suering one episode of
pesticide poisoning per year.49 Yet gures from
recent surveys and studies indicate the problem
may well be much larger, with estimated rates of
poisoning ranging up to 100 percent of exposed
workers. Community monitoring by PAN partner
organizations in 13 countries resulted in the 2010
publication of Communities in Peril: Global report on
health impacts of pesticide use in agriculture.50 The
report identied a high rate of adverse eects from
occupational pesticide exposure – up to 59 percent
of respondents aected – and widespread use of
HHPs. Eighty-two of the 150 active ingredients
being used by surveyed farmers, and 7 of the 10
most used pesticides, were HHPs. 51
45 Jeyaratnam J. 1990. Acute Pesticide Poisoning: A Major Global Health Problem. World Health Stat Q 43(3):139-44.
46 Ibid.
47 Murray D, Wesseling C, Keifer M, Corriols M, Henao S. 2002. Surveillance of pesticide-related illness in the developing
world: putting the data to work. Int J Occup Environ Health 8(3):243-8.
48 WHO. 1990. Public Health Impacts of Pesticides Used in Agriculture. World Health Organization, Geneva.
49 Jeyaratnam 1990, op cit.
50 Pesticide Action Network. 2010. Communities in Peril: Global report on health impacts of pesticide use in agriculture. http://nal.pdf
51 Based on the PAN criteria for HHPs – see Box 1.5.
“In Central America, PAHO has tracked
a steady increase in acute pesticide
poisoning cases each year for the past two
decades, and this trend closely parallels
upward trends in pesticide imports ….
Acute pesticide poisoning is widespread in
Latin America, and PAHO estimates that
acute pesticide poisoning cases are under-
reported by 50-80%.
Laborde et al. 2015
52 Miah SJ, Hoque A, Paul A, Rahman A. 2014. Unsafe use of pesticide and its impact on health of farmers: a case study in
Burichong Upazila, Bangladesh. IOSR-J Environ Sci Technol Food Tech 8(1):57-67.
53 Banerjee I, Tripathi SK, Roy AS, Sengupta P. 2014. Pesticide use pattern among farmers in a rural district of West Bengal,
India. J Nat Sci Biol Med 5(2): 313-6.
54 Singh A, Kaur MI. 2012. Health surveillance of pesticide sprayers in Talwandi Sabo area of Punjab, north-west India. J
Hum Ecol 37(2):133-37.
55 Toe AM, Ouedraogo M, Ouedraogo R, Ilboudo S, Guissou PI. 2013. Pilot study on agricultural pesticide poisoning in
Burkina Faso. Interdiscip Toxicol 6(4):185-91.
56 Tahir S, Anwar T. 2012. Assessment of pesticide exposure in female population living in cotton growing areas of Punjab,
Pakistan. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 89:1138-41.
57 Lee WJ, Cha ES, Park J, Ko Y, Kim HJ, Kim J. 2012. Incidence of acute occupational pesticide poisoning among male
farmers in South Korea. Am J Ind Med 55(9):799-807.
58 Preza DLC, Augusto LGS. 2012. Farm workers’ vulnerability due to the pesticide use on vegetable plantations in the
Northeastern region of Brazil. Rev Bras Saúde Ocup (37):125.
59 Silveria-Monteiro CS, Silva JV, Vilela LP, Moraes MS. 2012.The exposure of farm workers to pesticides used in potato
cultivation in Brazil. Inj Prev 17(Suppl 1):A163.
60 Marzban A, Sheikdavoodi MJ, Almassi M, Bahrami H, Abdeshahi A, Shishebor P. 2012. Pesticide application poisoning
incident among Iranian rice growers and factors inuence it. Int Res J Appl Basic Sci 3(2):378-82.
61 Uribe MV, Díaz SM, Monroy A, Barbosa E, Páez MI, Castro RA. 2012. Exposure to pesticides in tomato crop farmers in
Merced, Colombia: human health and the environment. In: Soundarajan RP (ed). 2012. Pesticides – Recent Trends in
Pesticide Residue Assay. InTech.
62 El-Hassan IM. 2011. Pesticide awareness in Sinnar state, case study: Abuhogar locality. Sudan J Agric Res 17:97-102.
Box 1.2: A snapshot of recent eld surveys of pesticide poisoning
• Bangladesh,2014– 85%ofapplicators reportedsueringgastrointestinal problemsduringand
after spraying, 63% eye problems, 61% skin problems, and 47% physical weakness. Most commonly
used pesticides: OPs and synthetic pyrethroids.52
• India,2014– asurveybytheCalcuttaSchoolofTropicalMedicineandtheNRS MedicalCollege
found that 30% of farmers using pesticides in a district in West Bengal were experiencing
neurological symptoms.53 In 2012 a survey of pesticide-exposed farmers in Punjab, India, reported
94.4% exhibited some symptoms of poisoning.54
• BurkinaFaso,2013–82.66%offarmerssurveyedreportedhavingexperiencedatleastoneailment
during or just after spraying, most commonly central nervous system eects. Of the cases reported
to a health care centre, 53% were unintentional ingestion, 28% suicides, and 19% occupational
• Pakistan,2012–inasmallstudyoffemaleworkerspickingcotton3-15daysafterpesticideswere
last used, 100% of them experienced headache, nausea and vomiting.56
• SouthKorea,2012–acuteoccupationalpesticidepoisoningamongstyoungmaleKoreanfarmers
was reported to be 24.7%.57
• Brazil,2012–inasmallsurveyin Brazil,44.8%ofruralworkersinvolvedinvegetableproduction
reported health problems whilst using pesticides.58 A survey of workers involved in potato
production reported that 33% of them had experienced intoxication at least once.59
• Iran,2012–12%ofpesticideapplicatorsinvolvedinricegrowingsueracutepesticidepoisoning.60
• Colombia,2012–thePublicHealthSurveillanceSystemreported6,650poisoningcasesfromuse
of pesticides in 2008, increasing to 7,405 in 2009 and 8,016 in 2010, most commonly caused by OP
and carbamate insecticides.61
• Sudan,2011–astudyreported27%poisoningrateamongsmallvegetablefarmers.62
Environmental impacts
Most environmental contamination with pesticides
results from the very inecient methods by which
they are normally delivered to the target pests –
largely spraying or seed coating. Both methods
result in only a tiny fraction of the material applied
reaching the target organisms, particularly in the
case of insecticides, and a large proportion of the
chemicals are left in the environment to aect
other organisms.63 These residues leach into
groundwater, wash into streams, rivers and the
marine environment, drift or, after evaporating,
are carried by the air hundreds, even thousands
of kilometres to be redeposited in the Arctic,
Antarctic, and on the peaks of mountains such as
the Himalayas. Pesticides now contaminate soil,
water, air, rain, fog, snow, ice, ora, fauna, and
humans throughout the world.64
The UN’s Economic and Social Commission
for Asia and the Pacic (ESCAP) reported in 2002
that in Thailand, an estimated 70 percent of applied
pesticides is washed away and leaches into the soil
and water, resulting in excessive pesticide residue
contamination in the local ecology and food chain.
It is not surprising to nd a large amount of land and
water in the country contaminated with pesticides”.65
Just as with humans, so too with wildlife:
pesticides cause acute poisonings; disrupt their
endocrine, immune and nervous systems; cause
cancer, reproductive and developmental defects;
and impair metabolic functioning and behaviour.66
As a result of their widespread dispersal in the
environment, pesticides result in reduced survival
and reproductive rates and have been implicated
in mass die-os of marine mammals, birds, and
sh,67 and population crashes of amphibians and
Unsafe pesticide spraying in Asia
These pesticide applicators are seriously exposed.
Spraying cotton in Pakistan. APP
63 (i) Jepson P. 2009. Assessing environmental risks. In: Radclie EB, Hutchison WD, Cancelado RE. 2009. Integrated Pest
Management. Cambridge University Press. (ii) The Task Force on Systemic Insecticides. 2014.
64 See Watts MA. 2009. Endosulfan Monograph. PAN Asia and the Pacic.les/
65 UNESCAP. 2002. Organic Agriculture and Rural Poverty Alleviation: Potential and Best Practices in Asia. Economic and Social
Commission for Asia and the Pacic, United Nations, New York.
66 Köhler H-R, Triebskorn R. 2013. Wildlife ecotoxicology of pesticides: can we track eects to the population level and
beyond? Science 341:759.
67 Ibid.
68 (i) Bruhl CA, Schmidt T, Pieper S, Alscher A. 2013. Terrestrial pesticide exposure of amphibians: an underestimated cause
of global decline? Sci Rep 3:1135. (ii) Colborn T, Dumanoski D, Myers JP. 1996. Our Stolen Future. Little Brown, Boston.
Some action has been taken to reduce
the environmental loading of some HHPs, for
example bans on the production and use of some
organochlorine insecticides via the Stockholm
Convention. Some countries have banned other
insecticides because of their eects on aquatic
and terrestrial species. Regrettably, more often
than not, these insecticides have been replaced by
newer generation insecticides, such as pronil and
the neonicotinoids, which bring with them a whole
new raft of environmental problems.
In 2009, for the rst time, a team of scientists
began to look closely at the impacts of some
pesticides on the ecosystem as a whole; and
in 2014 they published their ndings. Known
as the “Worldwide Integrated Assessment
of Systemic Insecticides”,69 the study found
that the class of systemic pesticides known as
neonicotinoids (together with pronil, another
systemic insecticide), are posing a global threat to
biodiversity and the ecosystem services on which
our food production depends, including nutrient
recycling, soil respiration, leaf litter decomposition,
pollination, and biological pest control. These are
now the most commonly used insecticides in
the world, encompassing one third of the global
market. As a result of this widespread use, together
with these chemicals’ persistence and solubility in
water, systemic insecticides have contaminated
agricultural soils, freshwater resources, wetlands,
estuarine and marine systems, and non-target
vegetation. Myriads of non-target and benecial
species are now acutely and chronically exposed
to toxic concentrations of these insecticides.
They disrupt the functioning of diverse
biological communities, including soil microbial
communities that are the cornerstone of
sustainable agriculture. They are causing a
signicant decline in benecial insects, are a key
factor in the decline of bees, and pose a serious
risk to butteries, earthworms and birds. Aquatic
insects are also at risk. Residues found in water
around the world regularly exceed toxicological
limits. Some of the neonicotinoids are up to 10,000
times more toxic to insects than DDT. Through run-
o and wind-blown dust from treated seeds, they
have spread far beyond the farms on which they
have been applied, the eects cascading through
ecosystems and undermining their stability.
“The biological integrity of gobal water
resources is at a substantial risk”, according to a
recent analysis of surface waters in 73 countries
which found that levels of insecticides in the water
exceeding regulatory threshold levels at 68.5
percent of the sites tested.70
These problems have all resulted from
authorised use, based on the routine assessment
Pesticides aect non-target organisms, reducing biodi-
versity. Carina Weber, PAN Germany
69 The Task Force on Systemic Insecticides. 2014.
70 Stehle S, Schulz R. 2015. Agricultural insecticides threaten surface waters at the global scale. PNAS 112(18):570-5.
…agriculture must not compromise its
ability to satisfy future needs. The loss
of biodiversity, unsustainable use of
water, and pollution of soils and water are
issues which compromise the continuing
ability for natural resources to support
Olivier de Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the right
to Food, 2011
of risk to single species and the routine failure to
assess wider ecological impacts and risk to the
ecosystem as a whole. The 29 scientist authors, who
reviewed over 800 scientic papers, concluded
that there is need for worldwide regulatory action,
suggesting “a substantial reduction of the global
scale of use” and the “need for policies and regulations
to encourage the adoption of alternate agricultural
strategies to manage pests (e.g. IPM, organic, etc.).71
Accounting for the full costs of pesticides
“A signicant portion of the chemicals applied
[for pest control] has proved to be excessive,
uneconomic or unnecessary”, according to IAASTD,
the International Assessment of Agricultural
Knowledge, Science and Technology for
Development, published in 2009.72
Alongside that enormous waste is the
enormous cost to individuals, communities,
and society as a whole from both human and
environmental eects of the pesticides applied.
The health and environmental cost of pesticide
use is now becoming a major international policy
consideration. In 2013, UNEP published its ground-
breaking report on the cost of inaction73 on
the sound management of chemicals, drawing
First global assessment of aquatic insect-
icide risk
The water bodies within 40% of the World’s
land area are vulnerable to insecticide
run-o from agricultural use. Most at
risk are Central America, S & SE Asia, the
Mediterranean and USA.
Ippolito et al. 2015. Modeling global distribution of
agricultural insecticides in surface waters. Environ Pollut
Box 1.3: Key messages from the Task Force on Systemic Insecticides
“The systemic insecticides, neonicotinoids and pronil, represent a new chapter in the apparent
shortcomings of the regulatory pesticide review and approval process that do not fully consider the risks
posed by large-scale applications of broad spectrum insecticides.
“Organophosphates have been largely withdrawn because of belated realization that they posed great
risks to human and wildlife health.
“Because of the persistent and systemic nature of pronil and neonicotinoids (and the legacy eects and
environmental loading that come with these properties), these compounds are incompatible with IPM.
“The preferred options include organic farming, diversifying and altering crops and their rotations, inter-
row planting, planting timing, tillage and irrigation, using less sensitive crop species in infested areas, using
trap crops, applying biological control agents, and selective use of alternative reduced-risk insecticides.
“The short- and long-term agronomic benets provided by neonicotinoids and pronil are unclear.
Given their use rates, the low number of published studies evaluating their benet for yield or their cost-
eectiveness is striking, and some recent studies … suggest that their use provides no net gain or even a
net economic loss on some crops.
71 van der Sluijs et al. 2015. Conclusions of the Worldwide Integrated Assessment on the risks of neonicotinoids and
pronil to biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. Environ Sci Pollut Res 22:148-54.
72 AASTD. 2009. Agriculture at a Crossroads: International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for
Development Global Report. UNDP, FAO, UNEP, UNESCO, World Bank, WHO, GEF. Island Press, Washington, D.C.
73 The concept of the costs of inaction was put forward by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
(OECD) and was dened as “no new policies beyond those which currently exist”, but UNEP describes it as also including
“failure to enforce existing national and regional policies on sound management of chemicals or to implement
international conventions and protocols”; it may also include lack of policies.
international attention to just how much current
pesticide use (and other chemical problems) is
costing countries in economic terms. Although all
countries are aected, low-income countries bear a
greater cost, in part because of poor management
structures, and in part because HHPs that are
banned in Europe and USA rapidly nd their way
to Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Studies carried out in other countries paint a
similar picture, one of huge costs to human health
from the use of pesticides:
• Brazil: acute poisoning, just for the state of
Paraná, is estimated at US $149 million per
year. For each $1 spent on pesticides, the
costs from acute poisoning = $1.28.75
• Thailand:averageexternal costs ofpesticide
use per year = US $27.1/ha, mainly costs
to farm workers health (US $22.42/ha); the
costs rise to US $105.75/ha for intensive
• China:the costsof pesticidesin ricefarming,
to human health and biodiversity, were
estimated in 2001 to be US $1.4 billion.77
Organic farming prevents pesticides entering water
bodies. Kaarz, East Germany Carina Weber, PAN Germany
74 UNEP 2013, op cit.
75 Soares WL, de Souza Porto MF. 2012. Pesticide use and economic impacts on health. Revista de Saúde Pública 46(2):1-8.
76 Praneetvatakul S, Schreinemachers P, Pananurak P, Tipraqsa P. 2013. Pesticides, external costs and policy options for Thai
agriculture. Environ Sci Pol 27:103-13.
77 Pretty J. 2008. Principles of agricultural sustainability: concepts, principles and evidence. Phil Trans Biol Sci 363(1491):447-
Box 1.4: The UNEP Cost of Inaction Report notes:74
• A conservative future risk scenario analysis suggests that accumulated health costs of acute
injury alone to smallholder pesticide users in sub-Saharan Africa will increase to approximately
US $97 billion by 2020, from US $4.4 billion in 2004.
• In2009,theconservativelyprojectedcostsofinactionrelatedtocurrentpesticideusewasgreater
than the total Ocial Development Assistance to general healthcare in Africa, excluding that for
• Uganda:healthcostsfrompesticideswereestimatedtobeUS$230millionin2005.
• Mali: total yearly costs of US $242,861 to US $1.5 million from acute and chronic eects of
• Zambia,Kafuebasin:acutepoisoningfrompesticidesusedoncotton=US$2.1millionperyear.
• InEurope,basedon2008estimates,thereisanestimatedmonetizedvalueofUS$15millionper
year for hospitalisations, and US $3.9 million from lost work resulting from pesticide poisonings.
• ThedisappearanceofbeesandotherpollinatorswouldcosttheUKeconomyupto£440million
per year and amount to 13% of the country’s income from farming.
• Chile: a 2014 study estimates the economic
costs of the acute eects of pesticides could
be as much as US $1.1 to 1.4 million per year.78
A number of attempts have been made
to estimate the real costs of pesticide use in
high-income countries as well. Based on gures
originally published in 1992 and then updated in
2005, Emeritus Professor David Pimentel of Cornell
University provided a comprehensive estimate of
US $9.6 billion, per annum, in environmental and
societal damages from pesticides in the United
States (US), including public health impacts
(see Table 1.1).79 In his estimate, environmental,
agricultural, and other costs to the economy are
estimated to greatly exceed those of human health
by a factor of 7.46, at least in the U.S. Dr Adrian
Leach and Professor John Mumford of Imperial
College London estimated the costs, excluding
chronic health eects, to be US $375 million for the
UK and nearly US $1.5 billion for the US in 2005-06,
averaging nearly US $17/kg of active ingredient in
the UK, and US $3.5 in the US.80
Climate change is expected to increase
the costs associated with pesticide use. In 2009,
Nikolinka Kovela and Uwe Schneider of Hamburg
University calculated that the current average
external cost of pesticide use in US agriculture
was US $42 per hectare, but that under projected
climate change this would increase to $72 per
hectare by 2100.81
78 Ramírez-Santana M, Iglesias-Guerrero J, Castillo-Riquelme M, Scheepers PT. 2013. Assessment of Health Care and
Economic Costs Due to Episodes of Acute Pesticide Intoxication in Workers of Rural Areas of the Coquimbo Region,
Chile. Value Health Regional Issues 5:35-9.
79 Pimentel D, Burges M. 2014. Environmental and economic costs of the application of pesticides primarily in the United
States. In: Pimentel D, Peshin R. 2014. Integrated Pest Management: Pesticide Problems, Vol 3. Springer, New York.
80 Leach AW, Mumford JD. 2008. Pesticide Environmental Accounting: A method for assessing the external costs of
individual pesticide applications. Environ Pollut 151:139-47.
81 Koleva N, Schneider UA. 2009. The impact of climate change on the external cost of pesticide applications in US
agriculture. Int J Agric Sustain 7(3):203-16.
…these costs borne by all segments
of society, including business, from the
production, use, and disposal of harmful
chemicals – are too high”
UNEP 2013. Cost of Inaction
Pesticides drift into waterways and homes
Pesticides travel far beyond their target organism
resulting in signicant external costs not paid by the
Table 1.1: Estimated external costs of
pesticides in the US82
IMPACT US $ billions
Public health impacts 1.14
Domestic animal deaths 0.03
and contaminations
Loss of natural enemies 0.52
Cost of pesticide resistance 1.50
Honeybee and pollination 0.33
Crop losses 1.39
Fishery losses 0.10
Bird losses 2.16
Groundwater contamination 2.00
Government regulations to 0.47
prevent damage
TOTAL 9.64
One study in the Philippines found that the
value of crops lost to pests is invariably lower than
the cost of treating pesticide-related illness and the
associated loss in farmer productivity. When health
costs are factored in, the natural control option is the
most protable pest management strategy”. 83
Of the 124 major commodity crops used for
human consumption, 87 percent are dependent
on pollinators for good yields. These crops provide
35 percent of global food production volume. In
tropical regions, 70 percent of 1,330 tropical crops
have varieties that have enhanced yields with
animal pollinators. In Europe 84 percent of crop
species and 12 percent of total production area
depend on pollinators, representing 31 percent
of EU income from crop production. The cost of a
complete world loss of insect pollinators has been
calculated to be about US $205 billion, 9.5 percent
of the total value of crops produced globally for
direct human consumption.84 What, then, is the
point in trying to increase food production with
the use of pesticides that kill or harm the insect
82 Based on gures originally published in 1992, then updated in 2005, and republished in 2014 in Pimentel & Burges 2014,
op cit.
83 Pingali PL, Roger PA. 1995. Impact of Pesticides on Farmers’ Health and the Rice Environment. Kluwer Academic Press,
Dordrecht. Cited in Pretty J, Bharucha ZP. 2015. Integrated pest management for sustainable intensication of agriculture
in Asia and Africa. Insects 6:152-82.
84 Chagnon M, Kreutzweiser D, Mitchell EA, Morrissey CA, Noome DA, Van der Sluijs JP. 2015. Risks of large-scale use of
systemic insecticides to ecosystem functioning and services. Environ Sci Pollut Res Int 22(1):119-34.
Table 1.2: Benets and health costs of three pest management strategies in irrigated rice,
Philippines (pesos/hectare)
Strategy Returns Health costs Net benet
Complete protection: standard 9 sprays/season 11,850 7,500 4,350
Economic threshold: treat only when this is 12,800 1,190 11,610
passed, usually no more than 2 sprays
IPM: predator preservation, habitat management, 14,000 0 14,000
resistant varieties, etc
Of the 124 major commodity crops used for human
consumption, 87 percent are dependent on pollinators
for good yields
1.3 Replacing HHPs with ecosystem
approaches to pest management
Replacing one pesticide with a slightly less
hazardous will not solve the myriad problems
described in the preceding sections. In many
countries the persistent organochlorines, like
endosulfan and the highly toxic organophosphates,
have been replaced by the neonicotinoids
trading one set of problems for another. This
just keeps farmers trapped on the decades-old
pesticide treadmill, perpetuating the endless cycle
of replacing one chemical with another.
In March 2015, for example, several pesticides
that had not been considered HHPs were assessed
by the International Agency for Research on Cancer
(IARC) and found to be problematic. IARC scientists
determined that the herbicide glyphosate, for
years widely regarded as ‘safe’, is in fact a ‘probable
human carcinogen.85 It is now on the PAN list of
HHPs (see Box 1.5 for criteria for HHPs established
by the FAO/WHO Joint Meeting on Pesticide
Management (JMPM) and those of PAN).
IARC also found malathion to be a probable
human carcinogen. This insecticide had not
previously met the JMPM criteria86 for an HHP,
even though it is the pesticide most commonly
involved in poisonings in Bangladesh. Data show it
to be responsible for 25.8 percent of the identied
pesticide poisoning admissions to hospital, with
a mortality rate of 20 percent.87 Carbosulfan,
chlorpyrifos and cypermethrin have all caused
acute poisoning of children in Nicaragua,88 but
they do not meet the JMPM criteria. Nor do the
neonicotinoid insecticides and a range of other
pesticides highly hazardous to bees. Replacing
HHPs with any of these pesticides will not
appreciably reduce the human and environmental
costs to countries.
This is why many international organizations
have been calling for some time for the replacement
of HHPs with ecosystem approaches to pest
management. As countries begin to phase out
HHPs, if they can assist their farmers to change over
to ecosystem approaches to agriculture instead of
reaching for other pesticides, it will be better for
the farmers, their community, the environment,
the economy, and the country as a whole. Many
studies demonstrate that farmers make more
prot when they shift away from dependence on
pesticides, and in addition the environment and
their health improve.89 The following chapters will
describe various ecosystem approaches and give
examples of how successful they are proving to
be in terms of crop productivity, economic returns
and improved social circumstances for farmers.
37 million bees dead after planting GMO maize in
85 Guyton KZ, Loomis D, Grosse Y, El Ghissassi F, Benbrahim-Tallaa L, Guha N, Scoccianti C, Mattock H, Straif K. 2015.
Carcinogenicity of tetrachlorvinphos, parathion, malathion, diazinon, and glyphosate. Lancet Oncol 16(5):490-1.
86 It did however meet the PAN criteria, but only for bee toxicity. Now it also meets PAN criteria for carcinogenicity.
87 Dewan G. 2014. Analysis of recent situation of pesticide poisoning in Bangladesh: is there a proper estimate? Asia Pac J
Med Toxicol 3:76-83.
88 Corriols M, Aragón A. 2010. Child labour and acute pesticide poisoning in Nicaragua: failure to comply with children’s
rights. Int J Occup Environ Health 6(2):193-200.
89 For more information on these benets see Chapter 3.
Replacing HHPs with ecosystem approaches
to pest management rather than more
pesticides makes sense.
Box 1.5: JMPM Criteria for HHPs
The JMPM criteria were established by an FAO/WHO group of experts in 2007, as follows:90
• Pesticide formulations that meet the criteria of classes Ia or Ib of the WHO Recommended
Classication of Pesticides by Hazard; or
• Pesticide active ingredients and their formulations that meet the criteria of carcinogenicity
Categories 1A and 1B of the Globally Harmonized System on Classication and Labelling of
Chemicals (GHS); or
• Pesticide active ingredients and their formulations that meet the criteria of mutagenicity
Categories 1A and 1B of the GHS; or
• Pesticideactiveingredientsandtheirformulationsthatmeetthecriteriaofreproductivetoxicity
Categories 1A and 1B of the GHS; or
• Pesticide active ingredients listed by the Stockholm Convention in its Annexes A and B, and
those meeting all the criteria in paragraph 1 of Annex D of the Convention; or
• PesticideactiveingredientsandformulationslistedbytheRotterdamConventioninitsAnnexIII;
• PesticideslistedundertheMontrealProtocol;or
• Pesticide active ingredients and formulations that have shown a high incidence of severeor
irreversible adverse eects on human health or the environment.
PAN International Criteria
The PAN criteria for HHPs were rst established in 2008 and most recently updated in 2014. PAN
chose to establish its own criteria because it regarded the JMPM criteria as having some important
shortcomings, particularly the failure to include pesticides with endocrine disrupting properties, eco-
toxicity, or inhalation toxicity. PAN then developed a full list of pesticides that qualify as HHPs under
the hazard classications selected (FAO/WHO have not yet provided a list of HHPs that meet JMPM
criteria). Several private standards, including 4C Coee, Rainforest Alliance and UTZ Certied, and at
least one European retailer, now use the PAN criteria as a decision-making tool in their own pesticide
policies. More information on the development of PAN’s list can be found in the preamble to the list –
refer footnote for internet location.91 PAN criteria, in addition to the JMPM criteria:
• Fatalifinhaled(H330)accordingtoGHS;or
• Endocrine disruptor,‘Suspected human reproductive toxicant’ (Category 2) AND ‘Suspected
human carcinogen’ (Category 2) according to GHS; or
• Highenvironmentalconcernwheretwoofthethreefollowingcriteriaaremet:
i) P = ‘Very persistent’ half-life > 60 days in marine or freshwater or half-life > 180 days in soil
(‘typical’ half-life), marine or freshwater sediment (indicators and thresholds according to the
Stockholm Convention); and/or
ii) B = Very bioaccumulative (BCF >5000) or Kow logP > 5 (existing BCF data supersede Kow log
P data) (indicators and thresholds according to the Stockholm Convention); and/or
iii) T = Very toxic to aquatic organisms (LC/EC 50 [48h] for Daphnia spp. < 0.1 mg/l); or
• Hazardtoecosystemservices,‘Highlytoxicforbees’accordingtoU.S.EPA(LD50,μg/bee<2).
90 FAO, WHO. 2007. Report of the 1st FAO/WHO Joint Meeting on Pesticide Management and the 3rd Session of the FAO
Panel of Experts on Pesticide Management. 22-26 October 2007, Rome.leadmin/templates/
91 PAN International List of Highly Hazardous Pesticides (PAN List of HHPs). June 2015.
2. Ecosystem approaches
It is becoming clear that small-scale agricultural units are best able to meet this challenge [climate
change]: agroecology, organic farming and some other sustainable production methods that are
respectful of nature show the way towards producing more and better quality food, but with less
inputs, which are mostly locally available and based on closed nutrient cycles.
Jean Feyder, Ambassador, Former Permanent Representative of Luxembourg to the UN and WTO
Ecosystem approaches to pest management
include agroecology, organics and ecosystem-
based IPM. Whilst these approaches dier in
some respects, they share a number of features
including prevention of pest damage and diseases
through maintenance of a healthy agroecosystem,
prioritization of soil health as the key ingredient in
a healthy agroecosystem, and use of pesticides of
any sort only as a last resort.
Ecosystem approaches take a whole-systems
approach to the management of the farm or
agroecosystem, including but not limited to pest
management. These approaches are based on
established ecological principles and processes
rather than reliance on chemical inputs. The
resulting suite of sustainable practices includes the
ways in which farmers manage their crop plants,
soil, water and other natural resources, as well as
the addition or conservation of useful ecological features in and around agricultural elds. Ecologically-
based farm design and practices can support and amplify natural processes for keeping insect pests,
plant diseases and weeds in check.
2.1 International support for ecosystem approaches
Since 2009 a number of high-level international bodies and studies have conrmed that the current model
of intensive agriculture, based on high use of external inputs such as pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, fossil
fuels and irrigation, must change if the global community is to feed itself and future generations. The
2002 Millennium Development Goal of reducing by half the proportion of people who suer from hunger
by 2015, has not been met by high-input intensive agricultural production. According to UNCTAD, “the
current system of industrial agriculture still leaves about 1 billion people undernourished and poverty
Modern agriculture has failed to alleviate hunger;
soybean harvest at a farm in Campo Verde, Brazil.
96 History of the IAASTD.
92 Homann U. 2014. Agriculture at a crossroads: assuring food security in developing countries under the challenges of
global warming. UNCTAD Secretariat. In: UNCTAD, 2013, Wake Up Before it is Too Late: Make Agriculture Truly Sustainable
Now for Food Security in a Changing Climate. United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.
94 FAO. 2015. Final Report for the International Symposium on Agroecology for Food Security and Nutrition. 18 and 19
September 2014, Rome, Italy.
95 McIntyre BD, Herren HR, Wakhungu J, Watson RT (eds). 2009. Agriculture at a Crossroads. IAASTD International Assessment
of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development Global Report. UNDP, FAO, UNEP, UNESCO, The
World Bank, WHO, GEF. Island Press, Washington, D.C.
stricken”.92 Recognising this, the outcome
document from the Rio + 20 United Nations
Conference on Sustainable Development (“The
Future We Want”) stated that in “arming the
necessity to promote, enhance and support more
sustainable agriculture… [we] recognize the need to
maintain natural ecological processes that support
food production systems”. 93
A number of landmark international
conferences, global assessments and expert
reports highlight the critical role of agroecology in
addressing hunger and advancing sustainable
development. The most recent event to underscore
the necessity for a global shift in agriculture was
the International Symposium on Agroecology
for Food Security, hosted in Rome by the FAO,
in September 2014.94 Key ndings from several
of these international expert convenings are
summarized below.
2009: IAASTD International Assessment
of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and
Technology for Development
The International Assessment of Agricultural
Knowledge, Science and Technology for
Development (IAASTD) was initiated in 2002 by
the World Bank and six UN agencies as a global
consultative process to provide decision makers
with the information they need to:
• Reducehunger
• Improverurallivelihoods, human healthand
• Promote equitable and socially, environ-
mentally and economically sustainable
The IAASTD was a truly multi-stakeholder
process involving FAO, GEF, UNDP, UNEP, WHO,
UNESCO and representatives of governments, civil
society, private sector, and scientic institutions
from around the world.96 The nal report,
“Agriculture at a Crossroads”, was authored by over
400 of the world’s scientists and development
experts who assessed the evidence from the past
“Business as usual is not an option”; Iowa, US
agriculture ensures the delivery of a
range of ecosystem services. In view of a
globally sustainable form of development,
the importance of this role may increase
and become central for human survival on
this planet.
IAASTD Global Report, p15
50 years of agriculture and evaluated prospects for
the next 50 years.
The IAASTD concluded that “Business as
usual is no longer an option97 and that the current
energy-intensive industrial model of agriculture
is outdated, unsustainable and exacerbates social
The IAASTD documented how global and
national food insecurity is likely to worsen if market
driven industrial agricultural production systems
continue to grow in ‘a business as usual mode’
(p24), while neither environmental sustainability
nor social equity will be achieved (p. 28), continuing
the cycle of hunger and poverty.
Looking towards the future, the report
concluded that a shift from current farming
practices to sustainable agricultural systems
capable of providing signicant productivity
increases, social equity and enhanced ecosystem
services is not only urgently required, but also
eminently possible. Productivity per unit of land
and per unit of energy use is much higher in
small-scale and diversied farms than in large
intensive farming systems.98 Political, economic
and institutional support for peasant farmers and
their organizations, including in particular women
farmers, can help rebalance power in the food
system and improve small-scale farmers’ access to
and control over resources (e.g. seeds, land, water,
energy), ensuring the advances in social equity
that are a foundational requirement of sustainable