Agricultural Dialog - Curtailing the cure? - October 2011
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Agricultural Dialog - Curtailing the cure? - October 2011



EU agriculture plays a vital role in ensuring food security and driving our economy. In their attempt to supply enough healthy and high-quality food, farmers face a constant threat from crop disease. ...

EU agriculture plays a vital role in ensuring food security and driving our economy. In their attempt to supply enough healthy and high-quality food, farmers face a constant threat from crop disease. Since the 1940s fungicides have enabled farmers to prevent and treat diseases, but potential Regulation that could reduce access to these important tools looks likely to have a dramatic impact.



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Agricultural Dialog - Curtailing the cure? - October 2011 Agricultural Dialog - Curtailing the cure? - October 2011 Document Transcript

  • iNForMAtioN FroM tHe AgriculturAl iNDuStrY | OCTOBER 2011AgriculturAl DiAlogue 14 eDitoriAl Dear Readers, The contribution of fungicides to EU agriculture is often overlooked. Since the 1940’s they have enabled the transition to high yield crop varieties, improving access to healthy and affordable food. Source: CropLife Increasing incidence of plant disease, driven by climate change, means that today’s farmers rely on fungicides more than ever. Concerns persist however that regulation could limit access to theseCurtailing the cure? products resulting in over-reliance on a very limited set of solutions, quickly leading toEU agriculture plays a vital role in ensuring food security and driving our resistance.economy. In their attempt to supply enough healthy and high-quality This edition of the Agricultural Dialoguefood, farmers face a constant threat from crop disease. Since the 1940s takes a closer look at the pressing needfungicides have enabled farmers to prevent and treat diseases, but potential for resistance management, the socio-Regulation that could reduce access to these important tools looks likely to economic contribution of fungicides, andhave a dramatic impact. the science on their safety. We are fortunate to have the insight of two of the foremostIllness is not only a human condition. Agricultural crops are vulnerable to global experts in this field, Prof. Dr. Michaeldeadly fungal and viral infections including Septoria tritici, Fusarium, Rust, Schmitz (Institute of Agribusiness, UniversityPowdery mildew and Eyespot. In Europe fungi have traditionally been the of Giessen) and Dr. Ronald Kendall (Texasmore prevalent threat to arable crops, and have proven devastating if left Tech University).untreated – destroying up to 40% of the total harvest.Fungicides, like antibiotics in human healthcare, revolutionised diseasetreatment. Their introduction in the 1940s prompted the start of the greenrevolution; an ongoing period of marked agricultural yield increases. In Markus Heldtaddition to dramatically reducing yield losses from illness, fungicides enable President, Crop Protection Division, BASF SEthe cultivation of high yield varieties that would otherwise be susceptible todisease.
  • AgriculturAl DiAlogue 14 2The figures are stark. Consolidated UN FAO statistics on European wheatyields begin only 20 years after their initial introduction, but the impact isstill evident. Between 1960 and 2008 wheat yields in Europe more thandoubled from approximately 1.25 to 3.5 tons per hectare (FAO).Growing resistanceHowever, fungicides’ likeness to antibiotics does not end there.Fungicides have been used widely and today European agriculture isheavily dependent on their extraordinary benefits. Just as bacteria haveadapted successfully to some antibiotics, fungi in plants have evolved tofungicides and in recent years have developed significant resistance tomany of the classes in use. Only the azole class, and particularly triazolesamongst them, are still considered to be highly reliable by farmers.Meanwhile the investment and timescale required to develop newproducts is severe; not to mention uncertain given the EU’s switch to Did you know?hazard based regulation. This leaves farmers with an ever smaller toolboxfor fighting fungi effectively, threatening EU agricultural productivity.  The European agriculture sector is worth 675 billion euros a year andThe threat posed to yield levels by further EU regulation is very concerning employs more than 11.2 million people,given two facts; (a) the global population is nearly 40% larger than it was equating to 14.2% of EU manufacturingin 1950 and (b) the population of the world is predicted to reach 9 billion 2050.  Cereals (258m tons) are the main cropEnvironmental threats grown in the EU. The spread of wheat stem rust UG99 lineage New and emerging infectious  The demand for wheat in the EU is disease is a regular media expected to rise at a rate (21%) that topic, with SARS and cannot be supported by the expected Asian Bird Flu being recent rise in production (7%). examples. Less well reported  According to the UN FAO fungicides is the re-emergence of UG99, prevent losses estimated to be between a devastating strain of the 15 and 30% of global wheat harvests – rust fungus that, thought to equivalent to 44 billion loaves of bread, be extinct, has spread the or the amount of bread consumed in length of Africa in less than Germany each year. Source: FAO a decade and now sits at the  An EU ban of azoles would: gateway to Asia and Europe. B Create an annual EU welfare loss es-Climate change is also causing major problems for farmers, who are timated to be between 4.4 billion andbeing introduced to new crop diseases. 5.6 billion USD that would be mainly borne by producersFinding a solution B Reduce yields significantly (average =As such EU regulation needs to be designed in a way that it ensures Germany 17%, UK 16%, France 23%)farmers have access to effective solutions for fighting crop disease. B Result in the net EU trade position on wheat changing from an export of 8.7In support of this opinion, a 2010 meeting of European and Mediterranean million tonnes, to an import status ofPlant Protection Organization (EPPO) – the intergovernmental organization 9.6 million tonnes- on Azole fungicides and Septoria leaf blotch control concluded that:  Potato blight which caused the deaths“azoles are a major factor in the successful management of this and other of an estimated 1 million people duringimportant cereal diseases, and having a diversity of azoles available is the Irish potato famine in 1845 is still aconsidered important in managing this disease”. serious threat to harvests.For now farmers are doing everything in their power not to compromise  Wheat rust spreads as billions of sporesazoles, by rotating them and mixing them with other fungicides. in the wind. They move incrementallyResistance management has become a watchword, but they fear that from field to field and need wet weatherthe variety of the tools they have to work with may be reduced in the to thrive.future due to ever more complex regulation.
  • iNForMAtioN FroM tHe AgriculturAl iNDuStrY | octoBer 2011 3 About Dr. Ronald Kendall Dr. Ronald Kendall is the founder and director of the Institute of Environmental and Human Health at Texas Tech University as well as the founding chair and professor of the university’s Department of Environmental Toxicology. Since 1997, the Institute of Environmental and Human Health (IEHH) has distinguished itself for its multidisciplinary approach to environmental and human health issues.    A leader in the field of wildlife toxicology,Minimal risk, maximum reward Kendall is frequently consulted by foreign countries on environmental issues. His Following the implementation of the EU Regulation research has been supported by 138 1107/2009, pesticides (including fungicides) will grants totalling over 50 million dollars. - uniquely in EU regulation - be assessed on the A prolific author with more than 200 basis of hazard rather than risk. Practically, a refereed journal and technical articles as substance with characteristics that might require well as books, Kendall is considered to an additional label in other applications could well have played a leading role in the initiation be banned for use in crop protection. Dr. Ronald of the field of wildlife toxicology. Kendall (Texas Tech University), one of the world’s foremost experts on the toxicology, shares his Among his many accomplishments, he opinion on fungicides, also commenting on the serves as an environmental advisor to new assessment criteria. the United States Justice Department and has addressed the United NationsAfter a thorough assessment of all the scientific literature, what is Committee on Sustainable Development.your opinion on the safety of fungicides?Generally speaking, fungal diseases are extremely difficult to controlin agriculture without chemical application. Fungicidal chemicals arederived from a variety of structures. These include simple inorganiccompounds, such as copper sulfate, to complex organic compounds.  Cereal production, utilization and stocksAlthough the scientific literature is voluminous and complex regarding Million Millionfungicide toxicology, generally speaking these crop protection products tonnes tonnes 2400 800can be used safely and effectively under practical agricultural applications Utilizationwhen used according to the label and applied by trained professionals. Production StocksWhat is the toxicological profile of fungicides? 2200 600With few exceptions, fungicides have relatively low acute toxicity inmammals.  However, some have historically produced positive results ingenotoxicity tests and, if such effects were demonstrated, many of theseproducts have been regulated out of use. 2000 400What are the dosage limits when looking at commercially soldfungicides and how does this relate to human health?Generally speaking, a fungicide is applied as a formulation which includesan active ingredient that is mixed with inert ingredients to enhance 1800 200application.  Therefore, the commercial formulation of a fungicide is not 0 2 0 3 0 4 0 5 0 6 0 7 0 8 0 9 1 0 11 1 2 20 1/0 20 2/0 20 3/0 20 4/0 20 5/0 20 6/0 20 7/0 20 8/0 20 9/1 20 0/1 /1 0100% active ingredient.  When one considers the general commercial 20 Source: FAO
  • AgriculturAl DiAlogue 14 iNForMAtioN FroM tHe AgriculturAl iNDuStrY | octoBer 2011 4applications of fungicides, the release of the active ingredient is generallyrelatively low, which means a reduced level of exposure for humans.  Since Prof. Dr. Michael Schmitz is recognized as a globalone of the basic tenants of toxicology is “the dose makes the poison”, low expert on the impactslevels of human exposure to the active ingredients in fungicides are preferred. of EU and international agricultural policy. HeAs a leading toxicologist what do you think about the ongoing debate is the founder and di-in the EU about the endocrine disruptors, especially with reference to rector of the Institute offungicides? Agribusiness located in Giessen, Germany. HeThere is a great deal of controversy and debate on just the definition of currently teaches at the Institute of Agriculturalan endocrine disruptor, much less the science needed to understand Policy and Market Research of the Universitythe relevance of endocrine disruption in terms of human health and the of Giessen. Prof. Dr. Schmitz is Member of theenvironment.  In general, the emerging scientific area of endocrine disruptors Scientific Advisory Board on Agriculture Policywill take a great deal of work to define and validate the tests needed to at the German Agriculture Ministry.determine relevant endocrine endpoints that can be interpreted to protect How important are azoles to crop protectionhuman health in the environment.  and what action would you propose to pro- tect EU crop yields? “We access the future im-Does the recent conversion to hazard based assessment of fungicides portance of azoles very favorably. In our opinionmake this debate disproportionately threatening to crop health? they are not replaceable and have the highest impact on plant health and yields with regardIf one just addresses a hazard based assessment of fungicides without to resistance management, curative action and broad spectrum. Our results show that farmersconsidering “dose”, this discounts one of the basic tenants in toxicology and technical experts in UK, France and Ger-and that being “dose makes the poison”.  Therefore, in the science of risk many would find it very difficult to combat fu-assessment, one needs to consider in addition to hazard an incorporated sarium and septoria tritici without azole-basedexposure assessment, in other words “dose”.  Also, oftentimes high-dose products and there is a strong consensustests are used in hazard identification yet the approved agricultural uses, among all countries that restriction of azoleswhich are effective in pest management, involve much lower concentrations would have disastrous impacts on resistance management; becoming extremely difficult orof the fungicide.  Therefore, the ultimate net effect of using hazard-based almost impossible, especially in the case ofassessments could be to put crop health at risk while overcompensating for septoria.human health protection. Restriction of azoles would have a strong im- pact on disease control due to missing curativeThere appears to be disagreement amongst experts on the safety of effects, higher costs, more time consuming andavailable fungicides.  Can you explain what lies behind this difference of strongly limited treatment possibilities. Diseaseopinion? levels would be much higher due to poor and unreliable control of core diseases, and an ina-If one just considers high-dose laboratory experiments for the identification bility to eradicate established diseases.of toxic effects from pesticides, such as fungicides, then one is probably Our analysis shows the importance of maintai-not getting the whole picture related to exposure and effects.  As an ning as broad a spectrum of plant protectionenvironmental toxicologist, my view is that we must take laboratory data products as possible to avoid the growth ofand then consider environmentally realistic exposure scenarios when we are disease resistance. The azoles are importantevaluating dose response and conducting a risk assessment. because of their curative as well as protective properties. Maintaining access for farmers will reduce the pressure to increase more than pro- portionately usage of other, less effective, subs- titutes.” iMPriNt Prof. Dr. Schmitz headed a joint research study BASF SE Rainer von Mielecki between Trinity College Dublin and the Institute of Agribusiness published in April 2011, entit- Agricultural Center Limburgerhof AP/K – Public/Government Affairs led: “Restricted avai- AP/K - LI555 Phone: +49 (0) 621 / 60-27 511 lability of azole based fungicides: impacts on 67117 Limburgerhof Fax: +49 (0) 621 / 60-27 512 EU farmers and crop Germany agriculture” http:// images/stories/pdf/iab_ nr_27_triazole.pdf