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Switzerland to vote on pesticide ban ‘in 3 years’

 Switz ban
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption: Farmers in Switzerland may have to end their use of synthetic pesticides

Swiss citizens will get the chance to vote on a complete ban on the use of synthetic pesticides after campaigners secured enough signatures to force a referendum.

More than 100,000 Swiss signed the call for a ban that would apply to all farmers, industries and imported foods.

If the vote is passed, Switzerland would become only the second country after Bhutan to implement a full ban.

But it could be at least three years before voters go to the poll.

Over the past 12 months, the future use of pesticides has been a hotly debated topic across Europe.

After months of deadlock, the EU re-approved the widely used weedkiller, glyphosate, for five years. France though says it aims to ban the chemical in the country within three years.

Just a few weeks ago, the EU agreed a near total ban on the use of neonicotinoids, the most widely used class of insecticides in the world.

The Swiss initiative would go much further than the handful of towns and regions around the world that have already banned all synthetic pesticides. It would also be of greater global significance than the ban imposed by Bhutan in 2013, as Switzerland is the home of the world’s biggest pesticide manufacturer, Syngenta.

The formal petition will be presented to the Federal Chancellery in Bern on 25 May.

Syn
Image copyright Courtesy of Syngenta
Image caption The world’s biggest pesticide manufacturer has its home in Switzerland

“At the beginning it started rather slowly, but then it gathered a lot of support especially from young people and then it gathered momentum and in the end we had plenty of signatures,” said Antoinette Gilson who’s with a group of Swiss citizens called future3 that are pushing for the ban.

The details of the signatures will be checked and transferred to the Federal Council, which is the Swiss federal cabinet. They have one year to give recommendations to parliament. The legislators then have two further years to accept the initiative and schedule a vote, or to come up with a counter initiative that could also feature on the ballot.

If passed, all synthetic pesticides would be phased out over a period of 10 years.

“To not use any pesticides will trigger a complete change in agricultural practices,” said Antoinette Gilson.

“It might be difficult to go through, but in Switzerland already around 13% of farmers are organic. I talk to a lot of them and I have not met one who has regretted giving up pesticides.”

The rules would also apply to imports which could have significant impacts on neighbouring countries as Switzerland imports almost 500kg of food per head of population, according to figures from the Federal Customs Administration.

Farmers and industry representatives are dismissive of the idea of the referendum, saying that it is too extreme and will not gain popular support.

“The initiative is too radical and overshoots the goal,” said Anna Bozzi from Science Industries Switzerland in a statement.

“Plant protection products are indispensable to ward off diseases and pests. A general ban would affect tremendously the yields as well as the quality of the agricultural products in Switzerland. The import ban would thwart supply and drive up prices.”

Supporters of the initiative think that if the Switzerland vote is eventually carried, it will have knock-on effects for others.

“I am convinced that other countries may follow suit,” said Prof Edward Mitchell from the University of Neuchâtel.

“Switzerland with its direct democracy system is somewhat different from other countries, making such a change perhaps more likely in the short term.

“This puts us in a privileged position to act proactively rather than in response to government actions, and with this goes a responsibility to do so.

“This is my personal opinion and it is likely that many Swiss citizens also think this.”

 

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Khmer TIMES-MASTHEAD-FINAL

Biological pest control agents given green light by government

Sok Chan / Khmer Times

A vegetable farmer waters plants at plantation in the countryside. KT/Chor Sokunthea

Cambodia has just launched a new registry for companies that wish to import biological control agents (BCA), effectively allowing the importation of these organisms which are widely used in other countries for pest control.

BCA are natural organisms that are used to fight pests, such as the larva of certain flies which are used to combat insects that kill crops. Controlling pests ¬– whether they are insects, mites, weeds or plant diseases – through this method is known as biological control.

Speaking at a workshop on the subject yesterday, Phum Ra, the director of the department of agricultural legislation at the Ministry of Agriculture, said his ministry has officially opened a registry for companies who want to import BCA, a move he hailed as a milestone for the agricultural sector as it will reduce dependency of chemical products and widen producers’ markets abroad, particularly when it comes to organic buyers.

He added that the country’s current overreliance on chemical fertilizers is debilitating the soil, causing pesticide resistance and hampering access to international markets that demand higher and greener standards of agriculture production.

“Pesticides costs a lot of money and negatively impact the environment, the soil and our health,” he said. “BCA will help farmers reduce their use of chemical pesticides and will boost crop yields.”

Phum Ra, the director of the department of agricultural legislation at the Ministry of Agriculture.
KT/Chor Sokunthea

Mr Ra went on to explain that the ministry’s decision follows a rise in demand for BCA products in the kingdom and that they are being assisted by German development agency GIZ in laying the groundwork for the new initiative.

“The new registry and import documents are fully aligned with Asean guidelines on regulation, use and trade of BCA,” he said. “Now any commercial entity can register to import BCA into Cambodia.”

However, Mr Ra warned that due to the novelty of using these agents in the kingdom, there is a need for all stakeholders to cooperate to train farmers in their usage and to acquire the necessary equipment for their proper deployment.

Mao Canady, the manager of Eco-Agri Co, Ltd, welcomed the new registry. She said she had never imported these products before because of a lack of regulation, but said her company was already producing Trichoderma – a type of BCA used against certain fungi – at their facilities to distribute locally.

“We are happy with the government’s decision. It will build trust for farmers, the private sector and consumers,” Ms Canady said, adding that BCA are generally cheaper than chemical pesticides and have a much smaller footprint on the soil and the environment.

San Bunika, the country director of Agri-Smart Association, said the Ministry of Agriculture did the right thing by establishing the registry and encouraged the authorities to keep facilitating the process of obtaining BCA by cutting red tape and making it easier for farmers to acquire the products.

“We use too many pesticides in Cambodia. BCA will reduce the need for them,” Mr Bunika said.

“The government should continue to facilitate the import of these products by, for example, having labels in the local language so that farmers understand what BCA are.”

According to the department of agricultural legislation, more than 40,000 tonnes of chemical pesticides have already been imported this year. There are more than 100 companies in the country that import pesticides and fertilizers.

 

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harabi post

fall-armyworm-frontal-MER-563x744

 

Malawi President declares ‘State Of Disaster’ in districts affected by Fall Armyworm outbreak

By Special Absalom   /   Saturday, 16 Dec 2017 01:53PM   /

The public is hereby being informed that President Peter Mutharika, in accordance with powers conferred upon him by Section 32(1) of the Disaster Preparedness and Relief Act, has declared all the districts that have been affected by the Fall Army-worm infestation Disaster Areas, with effect from, 15th December, 2017.

The President been informed that since the onset of the 2017/ 2018 cropping season and as at 8th December 2017, the Fall Army-worms had affected a total of 20 out of 28 districts in the country, affecting thousands of hectares and 133,083 farming families in the process.

The Fall Army-worms are mostly attacking maize, sorghum and millet.

Government, through the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development (MoAIWD) and development partners, is implementing interventions to contain the spread and impact of the Fall Armyworm outbreak.

So far, a cumulative total of 56,082 litres of pesticides (i.e. Dursban and Cyperimethrin) have been procured and distributed to Agriculture Extension Planning Areas (EPA’s) where smallholder farmers are accessing them for spraying infested fields.

However, the current stocks of pesticides are not adequate to contain the situation as the cropping season progresses; hence there is need for more resources to procure additional pesticides. The plan is to procure 400,000 litres of pesticides that will be distributed to farmers through their EPA’s.

Government, with support from development partners has also procured and installed pheromone traps in several districts to monitor the prevalence of the pest.

Furthermore, Government has intensified the training of front-line staff, traditional, political and church leaders as well as farmers on identification and management of the pest. Government has also enhanced sensitization and awareness campaigns through extension channels and the media.

As a medium to long term strategy, Government has also commenced developing the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategy in order to augment the chemical control that is being done currently.

Government will further embark on further studies for better understanding of the biology and ecology of the pest as well as biological control of the pest.

In these circumstances, it is clear that we have a serious crop pest infestation that is posing a major threat to food security in the country likely to affect a majority of our fellow citizens.

Since most of the areas are likely to be affected if the pest is not properly managed, additional resources are therefore required to implement interventions aimed at addressing further spread and management of the pest.

Accordingly, and in accordance with powers conferred upon him by Section 32(1) of the Disaster Preparedness and Relief Act, the President has therefore declared all the districts that have been affected by the Fall Army-worm infestation.

 

 

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BCPC News

Minister points to IPM and innovation as post-Brexit priorities for agriculture

14th November 2017

Delegates at this year’s BCPC Congress heard first-hand what the key pillars of post-Brexit policy would be, when the Rt. Honourable George Eustice, Minister for Agriculture, opened proceedings. 

“Defra must do what is right for UK farming,” said Mr Eustice. “With companies reluctant to invest in new products because of the uncertainty about financial returns, there are likely to be fewer products and increasing problems with pesticide resistance. It is vital that we put Integrated Pest Management (IPM) at the heart of our strategy, use pesticides more carefully and look to improve crop husbandry and soil health with better crop rotations.”

“Genetic technology may be contentious, but the UK argues strongly for applying new genetic technologies in crop production. We need to support this and other more innovative approaches to supplement our chemical pesticides. By summer 2018, a White Paper will be introduced on a new Agricultural Bill, with R&D and innovation at the heart of the approach,” advised the Minister.

Among the many leading industry figures speaking at the event, Dr Jon Knight, AHDB pointed out that few farmers had adopted IPM and most relied on conventional pesticides to be profitable, but he supported the move to biologically based IPM alongside chemical pesticides. Resistance to pesticides was difficult to combat since the range of actives had reduced. The rising costs of bringing a new active to market, compounded by the regulatory uncertainties, was a disincentive to do R&D for European markets and Dr Knight highlighted the need for a less stringent interpretation of hazard-based policies and a move to risk-based assessment.

Other speakers also strongly criticised aspects of the EU hazard-based approach to agrochemical regulation; Dr John Doe, Parker Doe partnership, showed clearly how EU classification of carcinogenicity based on hazard identification is outmoded and fails to serve society’s needs. Prof Steve Bradbury, Iowa State University, reviewed the US EPA experience where science-based risk assessment, supported by legislation, had proved acceptable to the wide range of US stakeholders in food production, consumption and the environment.

Prof. Lin Field, Rothamsted Research, highlighted worldwide concerns about bee decline and how easy it was to blame insecticides for this, despite the many interacting factors such as Varroa mites, diseases, weather and bee food availability. She outlined the ways in which misleading research findings – and associated press releases – had been used to blame neonicotinoids when the evidence was not there. Dr Peter Campbell, Syngenta and Mike Coulson, Exponent also evidenced misinterpretations of the data leading to contradictory and damaging scientific, press and regulatory responses.

As Dr Colin Ruscoe, Chairman, BCPC explained, “This year’s Congress takes place at a time of unprecedented pressure by well-funded lobby groups, some seeking a ban of all agrochemicals – despite good scientific evidence and the negative impact of such action on food production and the environment. This is evidenced by the unprecedented campaign against glyphosate, the most important and arguably the most benign of our agrochemicals. We need to support our UK government agencies in steering a difficult course, often in the face of public opinion against agricultural technologies, fuelled by misuse of science by malevolent pressure groups.”

Day Two of the Congress offered that opportunity, with the inclusion of a CRD Workshop providing delegates with the chance to discuss how an effective UK pesticide regulatory scheme post-Brexit, fully integrated with Defra’s future strategy could be structured and benefit UK agriculture. This workshop stimulated many constructive inputs for Dave Bench (CRD) and Gabrielle Edwards (Defra) to take away to help shape future regulation.

“Our industry needs to take the initiative to drive radical change, based on new technology and innovation as part of IPM – including sensing, robotics, targeted application, “smart” formulations and biopesticides,” concluded Dr Ruscoe.

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Via PestNet

https://www.googletagmanager.com/ns.html?id=GTM-W3WQKKF

 Sections

Scientists urge action against insect decline

Scientists from four different institutes and nationalities came to Brussels on Tuesday, 7 November. [Pollinis]

A recent study showed a 75% decline in Germany’s insect population over a period of almost 30 years but the European Crop Protection Association (representing pesticide companies Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, Bayer) told EURACTIV.com that the study did not identify the cause of the decline, which could therefore not be attributable to agriculture.

But Professor Hans De Kroon, one of the authors of the study, countered that.

“Knowing the exact cause is crucial to reversing this situation. But not knowing the exact cause should not be an excuse to do nothing,” he said during a debate hosted by MEP Eric Andrieu (France, S&D) and organised by French NGO Pollinis in the European Parliament on Tuesday (7 November).

Environmentalists call for pesticide ban as study shows extent of insect decline

Scientists have raised the alarm after a study 27 years in the making found the biomass of flying insects in nature protected areas has declined by more than 75% since 1990. The causes of the decline are not fully understood.

Scientific consensus

Neonicotinoids are the most used class of pesticides in the world and act on insects’ nervous systems. They can be sprayed on leaves but the most common use is seed-coating, used as a preemptive measure against pests. But when seeds are pre-coated in neonicotinoids, the plant only absorbs 2 to 20% – the rest is dispersed in the environment.

Research shows neonicotinoids have an impact the fertility of bees as well as bees’ weight and their reproductive system, reducing total population numbers, argued Peter Neumann,  chair of the Institute of Bee Health in Bern University, and author of a 2015 EASAC report which put the costs of the loss of pollination in Europe at €14.6 billion.

Neonics also have an impact on natural predators, including spiders and birds – who act as a form of natural pest-control, valued €91 billion annually worldwide – and on micro-organisms that ensure soil fertility (€22.75 billion).

Alternatives for farmers

While the data prompts to action, the scientist recognised there is a need for caution as well.

“We need to be fully aware of the consequences of a ban – what are the alternatives for farmers of an EU ban? Are they going to be reimbursed for crop loss, or can they be provided alternative molecules that target only pests?” Neuman asked.

He said “we should get over this fear of GMOs”, largely based on a lack of understanding, and invest in research which could provide an answer to pest management.

But GMOs are probably the largest EU taboo, and for the time being, farmers say a ban would leave them with less effective and more polluting alternatives.

Maize farmers on glyphosate and neonicotinoids: ‘We need to protect science’

As member states are due to vote on two key dossiers, maize farmers claim that EU regulation restricting access to plant protection products and plant genetics has reduced their competitiveness worldwide and that such regulation is not based on science.

But Jean-Marc Bonmatin, a scientist with the French National Research Committee CNRS said solutions such as integrated pest-control management, where pesticides are only used as a last resort, already exist.

And even when farmers lose their crops to pests, the Italian maize farmers’ experience shows it is less costly to insure (€3,50/ha) than to pre-emptively treat the crops with neonicotinoids (€40/ha).

An EU-wide ban

In Europe, Italy banned neonicotinoid seed treatment in 2008, citing concerns for pollinators.

France will ban neonicotinoids from September 2018, although some crops lacking alternatives will be exempted until 2020.

Following an assessment by the European Food Safety Agency EFSA in 2013 which identified “high risk to bees”, the European Commission imposed a partial ban on three neonicotinoid molecules on some crops.

But Fabio Sgolastra, a researcher at the University of Bologna and member of EFSA’s Working Group For Bee Risk Assessment, thinks this was not sufficient: “The risk is not negligible. The partial ban is not in line with science.”

EFSA just recently concluded a new risk-assessment including 100 more studies that have been published since 2013, which have confirmed the threat posed by neonicotinoids to bees and other pollinators.

The Commission will review EFSA’s risk assessment and submit a proposal to ban all uses of neonicotinoids except in greenhouses, which member states will have to vote on by the end of the month.

Justice for bees: French court to look at pesticide ban

An environmental organisation has filed a lawsuit to ban sulfoxaflor, a pesticide that has fallen through the cracks of the ban on neonicotinoids. EURACTIV France reports.

xssmmdlg

 

 

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SW FarmPress

ll weevil numbers in Texas at lowest level since erdication effort began.

After years of challenges, boll weevil eradication program making progress

Eradicating the boll weevil will insure that cotton will continue to be the No. 1 cash crop in the nation’s largest cotton-producing state.”

Logan Hawkes 3 | Oct 06, 2017

 

Cotton producers have a lot to worry about every year. But, one thing they aren’t worrying about as much as once they did is the dreaded Anthonomus grandis, or boll weevil, for generations the scourge of U.S. cotton farmers.

A little more than a century ago, the National Cotton Council notes, the tiny pest migrated from Mexico to the U.S., and  spread rapidly throughout the cotton belt. Over subsequent decades, it has cost America’s cotton producers more than $15 billion in yield losses and control costs.

In 1958, the council officially recognized the economic havoc the pest represented for U.S. cotton production, and with congressional support, a USDA Boll Weevil Research Laboratory was created, followed by eradication experiments, a trial eradication program, and an area-wide boll weevil control program implemented in the Texas High Plains and Rolling Plains to halt the weevil’s migration northward out of Mexico.

Based upon the results of those efforts, in the 1970s a boll weevil eradication program was launched by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), beginning with eastern seaboard states. Not long afterward, several state boll weevil groups were founded, including the Texas Boll Weevil Foundation, Inc.

ON THE FRONT LINE

Texas has long been on the front line of eradication efforts because of the common border it shares with Mexico. Boll weevil problems across the Rio Grande have been a serious issue, including potential for migration of the pest — mostly carried by wind — and sporadic outbreaks that have been problematic in parts of Texas, especially along the border corridor.

Much like other issues in the cotton industry, 2017 has had its share of challenges for the boll weevil eradication program, says Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer Lindy Patton. But in spite of huge increases in cotton acres, weevil reinfestations into eradicated areas, and plenty of weather-related obstacles, such as Hurricane Harvey, the Texas boll weevil eradication program made excellent progress toward eliminating the dreaded pest.

Things haven’t always been smooth, however. After decades of successful eradication efforts, occasional weevil outbreaks have largely been limited to deep south Texas. But in 2015, a troubling trend seemed to be developing. It was a very wet year in the Lower Rio Grande valley and across the border in Mexico’s Tamaulipas State. Trapping and treatment efforts in the Valley were troubled, especially considering the large migration of weevils from Mexico.

Eradication officials in Mexico said they were experiencing problems in addition to heavy rains. They included funding to conduct control methods, and involuntary cotton that was increasing as homeowners planted cotton seeds and nurtured their year-round development into tall plants, and even tree-size plants for shade. Weevil populations exploded.

In Texas, the fight was on to prevent migration of the pest further north into the state. Despite foundation efforts, weevil captures in early 2016 totaled 15,705 weevils in the Winter Garden area, with a few trapped near Alice.

COOPERATIVE EFFORT

“But things began to improve for the eradication effort in 2016,” Patton says. “Texas and Tamaulipas growers, along with program personnel from both nations, have worked to together to make both programs more effective. Changes to the eradication program in Tamaulipas greatly reduced migration, and the foundation started to get a handle on the weevil problem.”

Thanks to the Texas Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation, with assistance from other agencies like USDA and the North American Plant Protection Organization, help was offered to Mexico with both trapping and treatment programs, as well as identifying voluntary cotton and its removal. By late 2016, the boll weevil problem was improving across the border in Mexico, and in Texas.

Thus far in 2017, weevils were found only in two areas of Texas, the Winter Garden area around Uvalde, and in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. A total of 1,022 weevils have been captured in the Winter Garden area. The good news is that 747 of those were captured in the first two weeks of the year, with only 275 trapped the rest of the growing season. Strong cooperation from area farmers, and diligent work on the part of foundation personnel, are being credited for that success.

“So far in 2017, the eradication program has been able to bring weevil numbers to their lowest level since the program began,” Patton says. “Fewer than 30,000 weevils were trapped through the end of September, on nearly 200,000 planted acres of cotton.”

Program Director Larry Smith says he is extremely proud of the progress made. “Our program personnel have worked extremely hard, and have done an amazing job of bringing weevil numbers down to these record low levels. Many cotton producers in the Lower Rio Grande Valley have taken ownership of this important program, and have encouraged their neighbors to be diligent in destroying cotton stalks and volunteer cotton.”

He emphasizes that producers and the eradication program must work together to finish the job. “The last weevils are the hardest to get rid of, and we must work together to find and eliminate all volunteer cotton, destroy stalks in a timely fashion, and encourage folks to help by not planting cotton in difficult-to-treat places.”

With the weevil eradicated from over 98 percent of the state’s cotton fields, Patton says, the farmer-run Texas Foundation is helping producers achieve some amazing yields, and survive in some really tough times. Eradicating the boll weevil will insure that cotton will continue to be the No. 1 cash crop in the nation’s largest cotton-producing state.”

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Cucumber green mottle mosaic virus could have entered Queensland through imported seeds – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

//4654321.fls.doubleclick.net/activityi;src=4654321;type=abcne0;cat=abcne000;ord=4463444923102;~oref=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.abc.net.au%2Fnews%2F2017-05-04%2Fcucumber-green-mottle-mosaic-virus-imported-seed-biosecurity-qld%2F8494354?

Ccucumber green mottle virus could have entered Queensland through imported seeds

 

Posted 3 May 2017, 3:18pmWed 3 May 2017, 3:18pm

Biosecurity authorities are trying to figure out how a fruit and vegetable rotting disease broke out in Queensland, but have initial suspicions it was through imported seed.

Farmers from the Bundaberg region are angry cucumber green mottle mosaic virus (CGMMV) has recently been discovered on five local properties, owned by two growers.

CGMMV causes internal rot and discolouration in some cucurbit family fruit and vegetables, and its discovery comes months after an outbreak of white spot disease decimated the aquaculture industry in south-east Queensland.

Biosecurity Queensland spokesman Mike Ashton said the virus was not harmful to humans, but could ravage parts of the agriculture industry if a widespread outbreak occurs.

He said there was a possibility the virus was brought onto the infected farms by imported seeds.

That is considering the businesses operate independently and do not share personnel and equipment.

“That kind of increases the risk that perhaps it was seed that was the source of the introduction,” he said.

“It’s highly unlikely that we’ll ever be able to pinpoint exactly how it got introduced.”

“We’re certainly doing tracing investigations to try and identify the source.”

Farmers like Gino Marcon are angry there has been an outbreak of another virus, and are switching to less risky crops.

Mr Marcon normally grows a wide range of vegetables on his farm, but this year, he is only growing tomatoes to avoid CGMMV.

“We’ve actually stopped growing cucumbers, we’ve sort of got a wait-and-see attitude at the moment,” Mr Marcon said.

“We’re a bit worried that the disease may affect our zucchini production, so we’ve switched over to 100 per cent tomato production in our greenhouses.”

He blamed biosecurity authorities for the outbreak.

“We’ve lost confidence in the system and that’s the biosecurity system,” Mr Marcon said.

“We think it’s not broken, it’s shredded to bits. It’s simply not working.

“I think the whole system needs to be overhauled, we’re not getting value for money for the money being allocated to biosecurity.

“[Politicians] need to look long and hard at the whole system and change it.”

Mr Ashton rejects the allegation that the system has failed.

“We have managed to restrict the disease to a very small number of properties in Queensland,” he said.

“Unlike the Northern Territory and increasingly so in Western Australia where the disease has become quite established.”

There have been previous outbreaks of CGMMV in the Territory and WA, and an isolated case at Charters Towers in North Queensland in 2015.

Biosecurity Queensland hope the Charters Towers farm will be declared clear of the virus later this year.

The Federal Agriculture Department introduced mandatory imported seed testing to try and combat CGMMV in 2014.

In a statement, the department said it uses a sample size more than four times the size (9,400 seeds) than that used internationally (2,000).

It said that gave a high level of confidence in the results.

Topics: pest-management, rural, quarantine, crop-harvesting, agricultural-policy, vegetables, activism-and-lobbying, agricultural-crops, fruit, fruits, bundaberg-4670, qld

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