The result of this pressure has been a reduction in the range of old-fashioned chemical pesticides on the market.
That’s good news, you would think, and in terms of our health and of food safety in many ways of course it is.
But for farmers and other growers in some parts of the world wanting to switch to newer, more low-chem agricultural products and to integrated pest control methods, it can be a headache.
The problem is the time and cost of getting the various low-chem bio-pesticides and more natural yield enhancement products in development through the licensing process.
Because the new products waiting to come onto the market are more focused and pest-specific there is a limit in quantity and location on quantities that can be sold.
According to Dr Justin Greaves (Warwick University, Nov 2007): “…the market size is too small to provide economies of scale and encourage firms to enter. Given that bio-pesticides are niche products with very specific applications, the market size for any one product is small.”
Moreover, he adds: “Bureaucrats and regulators are naturally risk averse. Their desire to avoid things going wrong means they are not natural innovators. In other words, being risk averse does not create an encouraging environment for regulatory innovation.”
Prof Wyn Grant, also of Warwick University, UK, warned in 2007: “Bio-pesticides are much safer for humans and much more sustainable in the long-term.
“However, our current regulatory system is set up for synthetic pesticides – it costs up to €2.5m per product. This is a particular problem because biopesticides are so targeted – it means their market is much smaller than the old-style kill-everything pesticides.”
That’s further complicated by the lack of a universally recognised regulation and licensing system.
It seems, too, that costs and timescales from development through licensing to a product on the market have increased dramatically over the last decade or so.
UK consultancy company Phillips McDougall recently found that the average cost of discovering, developing and registering a new crop protection product rose by 39% to $256 million between 2000 and 2005-08.
That followed the 21% increase to $184 million between 1995 and 2000 found in an earlier study.
Development costs rose by 85% to $146 million between 2000 and 2005-08, and had more than doubled from 1995. The greatest increase was seen in the cost of field trials, which doubled between 2000 and 2005-08 to $54 million. The study attributed the increase to regulatory bodies’ demand for more efficacy data as they direct development products at an increasing number of crops and targets.
Registration costs also more than doubled between 2000 and 2005-08 with the study identifying internal company costs as being the major reason for the increase, potentially due to the cost of putting dossiers together and the personnel required to do this.
Finally, the average time for bringing a new product to market rose from 9.1 years in 2000 to 9.8 years in 2005-08.
It’s something that exercises Marcus Meadows-Smith, CEO of a leading US-based company specialising in researching low-chem agricultural products, who contrasts reduced regulatory requirements and review times in the US with the significantly longer and “considerably more onerous” EU process, which makes no distinction between bio- and conventional pesticides.
All of which is pretty alarming for consumers, retailers and farmers – waiting a decade for more environmentally-friendly bio-pesticides and other low-chem agricultural products when we’re constantly being urged to do our bit towards helping restore an environment under extreme threat.
What chance of persuading “risk averse” bureaucrats to get innovative and come up with a universally recognised regulation and licensing system to speed things up a bit – preferably one which supports sustainability and avoids imposing costs on future generations? Can Global Bureaucrats Think outside the Box when it comes to Regulating Low-chem Agricultural Products?
About the Author
Can consumers, farmers and the planet wait a decade for new bio-pesticides and other low-chem agricultural products to go grind their way through an expensive testing and licensing regime before they come onto the market? Consumer journalist Ali Withers asks if it’s time for bureaucrats across the world to get together and devise a universal regulation process.