Biopesticides are a set of tools and applications that can help farmers transition away from highly toxic conventional chemical pesticides into an era of truly sustainable agriculture. Biopesticides of course are only a part of a larger solution; sustainable agriculture is a wide field. But helping farmers move from the current chemical dependency to sustainable agriculture and beyond requires tools for the transition and for a new era. Biopesticides can and will play a significant role in this process.
Like other Green Chemistry solutions, developing safe, effective biopesticide products requires holistic thinking and multi-disciplinary approaches which are a challenge for the biopesticide industry. Turning lab discoveries into profitable business products is also daunting. This mirrors what inventors face when implementing green chemistry solutions in other sectors. What follows is a summary of our conclusions:
Serious questions remain about the safety of biopesticide products from both a human and ecosystem health standpoint. Current regulations do not go nearly far enough in evaluating systemic broader impacts of biopesticides. By definition, Green Chemistry is about continuous improvements aimed at reducing or eliminating hazard. Fully defining hazard is difficult. Even products hailed by Green Chemists and regulators alike as safer for human health may turn out to have unforeseen negative environmental health impacts. See for example, Spinosad, a green chemistry award winning biopesticide, which while significantly safer for humans than other pesticides but is toxic to bees.
We must encourage pest management solutions and regulations to continuously evolve. We must also ensure that multi-disciplinary teams, including Green Chemists, environmental health specialists and other scientists, approach these innovations holistically.