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Is biocontrol a realistic alternative to pesticides?

Updated: Aug 29, 2018

On June 15, 2018, the question was asked in the European Parliament wether the European Commission could provide an overview as to the use of biological pest control measures in European agriculture. The background of the question was an article published in "Le Monde", stating that biological control could compensate the desirable loss of pesticides that are very harmful to humans and the environment. (source)



Biocontrol is already part of European agriculture and it is part of IPM

The European Commission responded that "Biocontrol is one of several types of pest control, in which pests are controlled using other living organisms. These biological control agents can be either macro-organisms (e.g. insects, mites) or micro-organisms (e.g. bacteria, fungi). Semiochemicals (like pheromones) are in general also considered as part of biocontrol.

EU legislation(1) provides since 1991 that microorganisms to be used as active substances in plant protection products must be approved in accordance with the same procedure as chemical active substances. If they fulfil the criteria, they can be approved as low-risk active substances and they are eligible for an accelerated procedure for product authorisation in the Member States. Methods of biocontrol have thus been available since many years to EU agriculture and the numbers are increasing: over the period 2011-2018, 32 applications for new active substances (out of a total 63) were for biocontrol active substances.

Biocontrol methods are a component of integrated pest management (IPM), which has to be implemented by all users of pesticides in the EU pursuant to Article 55 of Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009. Biocontrol is also important for organic production(2). Directive 2009/128/EC on the sustainable use of pesticides(3) does not specifically refer to biocontrol, but requires in its Article 14 that Member States promote low pesticide-input pest management.

The Commission will support the Member States in the development of methodologies to assess compliance with the eight IPM principles(4). A series of training courses is being organised in this regards under the ‘Better Training for Safer Food’ programme(5). The Commission will organise a workshop on IPM assessment during the second semester of 2018." (source)