K.L. Heong, International Rice Research Institute, Los Baños, Philippines
On August 21, 2013 SCIENCE published an article on the “Tsunami of Pesticides” that Asia is experiencing unprecedented growth in pesticide importation because of increased production capacities in China, Europe and the USA. At the same time pesticide consumption in these regions has remained relatively unchanged or in decline. The article focused on how Vietnam had consciously implemented insecticide reduction programs such as “No early spray”, “3 Reductions, 3 Gains” and more recently ecological engineering. In addition the Ministry and Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) developed a new set of regulations in pesticide management (Circular # 18) which is expected to be implemented as law in 2014. In March 2012, MARD reported success in the country’s management of BPH and attributed the success to “3 reductions, 3 gains” and “escape strategy” programs. The full article is available in SCIENCE.
The “Pesticide Tsunami” was introduced in 2010 to highlight the sudden surge of insecticide imports in Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam that triggered planthopper outbreaks. Some of the insecticides were being marketed through more than 500 trade names and using multi- tier marketing systems. Sales promotion schemes include holiday trip, a trip to Mecca, electrical goods and rebates. Pesticides in most of Asia are being sold as FMCGs (fast moving consumer goods). Most of the practices to increase sales adopted by small companies and big multi nationals violate the FAO Code of Conduct for Pesticide Distribution and Marketing. The unregulated pesticide market is another cause for the overuse – a situation similar to a “House with No Roof”. Thus millions of rice farmers who had been trained in IPM had mostly disappeared as many now adopt “modern IPM” using 5 prophylactic sprays introduced by the industry. Many IPM trained farmers have abandoned their knowledge to embrace modernism and use of new seeds, like hybrid rice, packaged with the insecticides.
Research by IRRI and national program scientists have shown that insecticides have little productivity gains but instead induce planthopper outbreaks (see Bottrell and Schoenly 2012, Heong and Schoenly 1998, Way and Heong 1994). FAO’s SCPI (Sustainable Crop Production Intensification) program adopted these findings and stated that “Most tropical rice crops under intensification require NO insecticide use”. Between 2010 and 2013, planthopper outbreaks destroyed more than 3 million hectares of rice in Thailand, about a million hectares in Indonesia and China loses about a million each year. Such losses can be prevented if insecticide use is better regulated and managed as suggested by a working paper published by ADB. The paper entitled “Addressing Planthopper Threats to Asian Rice Farming and Food Security: Fixing Insecticide Misuse” outlines the problem and root causes and calls for structural reforms in plant protection services and develop “professionalization” into a system similar to that in the medical and pharmaceutical professions. Pesticide retailers should be certified and licensed and the pesticide industry needs to strictly comply with the FAO code of conduct. The paper is an ADB Sustainable Development Working Paper series # 27 and available in ADB website. It has also been featured in the ADB blog by Dr Adriano.
In parallel with structural reforms, ecological engineering approaches can be usefully employed to restore ecosystem services. The approach involves 3 strategies; reduce mortality of beneficial arthropods by reducing insecticides especially in the early crop stages (no early spray in the first 40 days), provide alternative food sources to generalist predators and enhance parasitoids by growing nectar rich flowers.
Bottrell, D.G. and Schoenly, K.G. 2012. Resurrecting the ghost of green revolutions past: the brown planthopper as a recurring threat to high-yielding rice production in tropical Asia. Journal of Asia-Pacific Entomology 15:122-140 (pdf)
ADB Working Paper Sustainable Development WP series # 27 (pdf)
Science Special section by D. Normile (pdf)