The challenge of pests and pesticides in our Agriculture

Even with the use of pesticides,” between 20% to 40% of global crop production is lost to pests annually. Each year, plant diseases cost the global economy around $220 billion, and invasive insects around $70 billion

Jeffrey Levine

3/22/20246 min read

A personal Intro

I find myself grappling with the complex issue of pests and pesticides in agriculture and the intricate relationship between the two. Depending on one's perspective, it may seem like either the pest or the pesticide is the primary problem. Pests pose a significant threat to crops, necessitating the use of pesticides to combat them. However, in addressing this challenge, pesticides can inflict harm on human health, contaminate our food, and degrade the environment.

Finding a solution to this dilemma requires a nuanced approach that balances the need for pest control with the imperative to minimize the negative impacts of pesticides.

This issue has become my passion and mission over the past few years. Despite my background as a CFO and accountant, I have been drawn to the cause of reducing pesticide usage and promoting sustainable agricultural practices. I passionately believe that addressing thus is the key to addressing numerous global challenges, including environmental degradation, food security, and affordability.

My journey began when I sought out farming expertise for a business opportunity and crossed paths with Dr. Nimrod Israeli, an Israeli farmer and scientist. The founder of Biofeed https://biofeed.co.il/enhome/, a company dedicated to combating the devastating effects of pests on fruits and vegetables. Along the way, I encountered individuals like John Rouloc, Executive Producer of Kiss the Ground: https://kissthegroundmovie.com/ and Anna Shevel, a founder of https://unpoison.org/ Who are leading the fight for regenerative agriculture.

Today, I am involved with a company https://www.scarow.com/ that is pioneering innovative technologies to measure pest populations and administer targeted treatments more accurately. Increasing crop yields while reducing pesticide usage contributes to a healthier and more sustainable agricultural ecosystem.

The unhealthy effects of pesticides, chemicals in farming, and food.

To achieve the great balance between mass-produced food and healthy farms and the produce we eat, pesticides and harmful chemicals in the plants, soil, water, and Atmosphere were introduced.

The dangers caused by pests are real, hence the use of chemicals and pesticides.

Even with the use of pesticides,” between 20% to 40% of global crop production is lost to pests annually. Each year, plant diseases cost the global economy around $220 billion, and invasive insects around $70 billion”, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

https://www.nifa.usda.gov/about-nifa/blogs/researchers-helping-protect-crops-pests#:~:text=Between%2020%25%20to%2040%25%20of,Organization%20of%20the%20United%20Nations.

The negative impacts of pesticides on the environment, human health, biodiversity, water, and soil are well-documented.. Pesticide residues can be found in many food commodities, beer, honey, pasta, fruits, vegetables, and even in playgrounds, urine, and the air.

Solve this problem then can make an impact in improving global food security,

 Clear link to health and cancer

In November 23, Bayer was ordered to pay $1.56 billion in the latest US trial loss over Roundup weedkiller. Around 165,000 claims have been made against the company for personal injuries allegedly caused by Roundup, which Bayer acquired as part of its $63 billion purchase of agrochemical company Monsanto in 2018. In 2020, Bayer settled most of the then-pending Roundup cases for up to $10.9 billion.

 Costs of Protection and Surveillance.

This also leads to Export bans and increased costs of surveillance. The cost of plant protection and quarantine by the US Dept of Agriculture is a staggering $648 million a year

https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2024/01/16/2023-year-plant-health

 Climate change, food security and food inflation, and cost living

The overall combination of natural produce loss, produce wasted through the supply chain, excessive use of chemicals and pesticides, increased farming costs, lower quality, and supervision costs leads to higher prices of produce. Climate change, food security, food inflation, and cost of living are all important issues that have a significant impact on our lives, and the world around us. It's crucial that we understand and address these challenges thoughtfully and proactively.

Solve this problem then we solve a lot of the world's problems and many SDGs. 

A growing problem

Over the past 30 years, massive pesticide use on farms worldwide has increased by 60%, even though global cropland has declined by approximately 1 million square kilometres.

The overapplication of pesticides breeds resistance in the target pests, typically resulting in increased application of one or more pesticides.

Most pesticides damage a broad spectrum of beneficial insects and microorganisms, not just the target pest. This disrupts the biological controls that are essential in keeping pests and diseases in check. Without biological controls, crops suffer, and many growers respond with more and stronger chemical interventions.

Source – posted on Linkedin - https://www.linkedin.com/in/sam-knowlton-21a37a26/

 The Pesticide Market

The European Union is one of the world’s biggest markets for pesticides.  Almost a quarter of all pesticides sold worldwide are sold in the EU. It is also the top pesticide exporting region, increasingly selling to countries of the Global South to which pesticides that are banned in the EU can still be exported.

So, to make a change one needs to go up these big Agro Chemical companies who are fighting to keep their market dominance.

This is the chemical treadmill on which so many farmers find themselves stuck.

 Four drivers of change need to be addressed:

•            The number one challenge to farming worldwide is pests (fruit flies) which can destroy 50% to 80% of the crop, making farming unprofitable.

•            It is now well known that pesticides negatively impact human health, biodiversity, water, soil, and global supply chains. The EU Green Deal has a targeted 50% reduction in pesticides and chemicals but is challenged to find solutions.

•            The desire of consumers to eat healthier, to have better-tasting fruit, have longer buying seasons and have your fruit a longer shelf life?

•            The potential to address solution 97% to global farmers who are smallholders in developing countries who have no access to premium Markets.

  

The solutions are not that apparent.

In my book – Upgrading ESG– How Businesses Can Thrive in the Age of Sustainability I wrote (page 265):

 “French farmers drove hundreds of tractors into Paris on Wednesday to protest against pesticide restrictions and other environmental regulations they say are threatening farm production in the European Union's largest agricultural power.

"Our means of production keep being undermined by prohibitions without solutions," Jerome Despey, secretary general of the FNSEA, France's main farming union, told Reuters.

https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/hundreds-tractors-enter-paris- protest-against-pesticide-bans-2023-02-08/

Environmental activists say pesticide residues damage soils and wildlife and they have welcomed the EU ruling against the use of sugar beet seeds treated with neonicotinoid insecticides that can harm bees.

"Biodiversity, indispensable for life on earth and farming, must not be sacrificed," anti-pesticide group Generations Futures said in a statement supporting the neonicotinoid ban.

Farmers argue that sugar beet plants do not attract bees and that the ban leaves them exposed to crop disease virus yellows, raising the prospect of lower production and more imports from countries that allow neonicotinoids.”

To summarize, we do not have adequate solutions, and yet despite that saying beets do not attract pests, they still want to use pesticides because of the potential risk. I am going to add to this the data and measurement challenge. This cries out for a solution.

  

 The way forward

 Over the last few years, I have been learning and searching for solutions to the problem.

As a starter, consumer awareness is key to making a change. Therefore, I am advocating for Product ESG or labelling  (QR Codes) that shares the journey of the product and provides transparency of the environment (waste, climate, chemicals, transport) and social (fair profit and wages) and Governance (transparency) of each product we consume.

However, this is just a starter, and one of my brandings is where “ESG meets Innovation”.

Meet FarmUP

 Farm Up - Driving Increased Global Food Security

Empowering farmers for sustainable growth

 FarmUP is a platform dedicated to increasing Food security. It does that by promoting cutting-edge agro-technology and agro-social finance - providing tailored project opportunities for sustainable farming.

We believe in the power of agriculture to drive positive change and create a more sustainable future.

We do this by addressing by the promotion of:

  • Technology that can make a global impact.

  • Investing inprofitable agro-business models.

  • Collective Responsibility

 

FarmUP is working with some cutting-edge agrotechnology companies looking to solve the pest and pesticide problems.

Please reach out to me if you are driven to invest in opportunities to make the world a better place,