The Changing Face of the Pesticide Industry

by Jonathan Shoham


A high level of investment from the crop protection industry to research and develop new products has led to a continual improvement in both the effectiveness and safety profile of pesticides, according to a new report. Here the report author, Jonathan Shoham, explains more.

In 1962, the seminal book Silent Spring was published by Rachel Carson. The book raised awareness of some of the unintended consequences of use of crop protection products and contributed to the development of a more active environmental movement that was critical of the crop protection industry.

Our new report “The Evolution of the Crop Protection Industry Since 1960” demonstrates that since Rachel Carson’s book was published, there have been significant improvements in the benefits and properties of crop protection products.

Firstly, the number and variety of crop protection products has increased dramatically, providing a more extensive and effective pest control toolbox to farmers. There has been a particularly rapid growth in the development of biological products in recent years.

This has contributed to a major increase in crop production which has met the rapidly growing global demand for food. Most of this demand has been met through improved yields, rather than the cultivation of new, biodiverse land.

At the same time, products have become much more effective, leading to a 95% decrease in active ingredient application rates per hectare. In addition, crop protection products introduced today are less acutely toxic, as manufacturers screen out problematic active ingredients early in the R&D process.

Overall, global active ingredient product volumes remained more or less the same between 1980 and 2008 but showed some growth thereafter with an increased uptake of no-till agriculture, rapid growth in Asia and Latin America, high commodity prices, and demand from farmers to deal with increased pest threats due to a changing climate.

If global demand for food is to be met to 2050, while also protecting the environment and meeting the challenges of climate change, farmers need sustainable solutions, with integrated pest management at the heart of their approach. Other farm techniques, such as no-till agriculture with associated benefits of reduced soil erosion and reduced greenhouse emissions, will also be important.

In this context, crop protection products – which contribute to IPM and no-till practices – remain of central importance to feed the world sustainably. However, more must be done. The crop protection industry must continue to invest to innovate and the regulatory environment must be receptive to new improved products for farmers that also meet societal expectations.

Click here to download the report.