Food Safety pp 43-55 | Cite as

Safe Food Production with Minimum and Judicious Use of Pesticides

  • Christos A. DamalasEmail author


In agricultural ecosystems, pests, plant pathogens and weeds pose a major challenge to crop productivity and global food security. Without crop protection measures, the crop damage inflicted would be more severe by almost 30 % than that is at present. Pesticides have proved to be an efficient and reliable way of minimizing pest pressure in most cases. Nowadays, however, the excessive and uncontrolled use of pesticides is called into question, with the increasing knowledge of negative impacts and the demonstration of undesirable effects on ecosystems, on non-target species and on human health. Overreliance on pesticides is also counterproductive to the sustainability of pest control, especially with respect to the increasing problem of pest resistance. Concerns about the sustainability of agricultural ecosystems lead to the need of developing technologies and practices that do not adversely influence environmental goods and services, are readily accessible, easy to implement and effective for farmers and improve crop productivity. Because pesticides will likely remain a tool for modern agriculture, it is important to design strategies that will reduce the impact of pesticides. The use of advanced ecological knowledge at high levels of the hierarchy of the agro-ecosystem, which means utilization of comprehensive information on the life cycles of pests, maximization of the use of natural processes in the cropping system, rational decision-making for pest control taking into account the severity of the infestation and introduction of the damage threshold concept, is gaining popularity. With respect to pest control, regardless of the method selected, it should be implemented with precision and with as few chemicals as possible. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is seen as a way to achieve sustainable agricultural production with less damage to the environment. IPM provides a toolbox of complementary solutions for pest control by using complementary technologies. It relies on minimum use of pesticides that target specific pests, can be applied at low rates and are less toxic to beneficial organisms. IPM projects have been able to deliver substantial reductions in the use of pesticides coupled with increased yields. From their side, agrochemical companies try to expand their product portfolio by investing in the research of new chemical compounds with innovative modes of action, aiming at environmentally friendly and sustainable crop protection products that are effective with smaller amounts of active ingredients. Adaptive pest control based on IPM with rational use of pesticides and only as a last resort seems to be the most viable way forward for safe food production.


Crop protection Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Sustainability Yield losses 


  1. Alig RJ, Butler BJ (2004) Projecting large-scale area changes in land use and land cover for terrestrial carbon analyses. Environ Manag 33:443–456CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anderson PK, Cunningham AA, Patel NG, Morales FJ, Epstein PR, Daszak P (2004) Emerging infectious diseases of plants: pathogen pollution, climate change and agro-technological drivers. Trends Ecol Evol 19:535–544CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Birch ANE, Begg GS, Squire GR (2011) How agro-ecological research helps to address food security issues under new IPM and pesticide reduction policies for global crop production systems. J Exp Bot 62:3251–3261CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Boote KJ, Jones JW, Mishoe JW, Berger RD (1983) Coupling pests to crop growth simulators to predict yield reductions. Phytopathology 73:1581–1587CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brouwer R, Marquart H, De Mik G, Van Hemmen JJ (1992) Risk assessment of dermal exposure of greenhouse workers to pesticides after re-entry. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 23:273–280CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cooper J, Dobson H (2007) The benefits of pesticides to mankind and the environment. Crop Prot 26:1337–1348CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Damalas CA (2009) Understanding benefits and risks of pesticide use. Sci Res Essays 4:945–949Google Scholar
  8. Damalas CA, Eleftherohorinos IG (2011) Pesticide exposure, safety issues, and risk assessment indicators. Int J Environ Res Public Health 8:1402–1419CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dent D (2005) Overview of agrobiologicals and alternatives to synthetic pesticides. In: Pretty J (ed) The pesticide detox: towards a more sustainable agriculture. Earthscan, London, pp 70–82Google Scholar
  10. Ekström G, Ekbom B (2011) Pest control in agro-ecosystems: an ecological approach. Crit Rev Plant Sci 30:74–94CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fishel FM (2013) Pest management and pesticides: a historical perspective. Publication PI219. Agronomy Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USAGoogle Scholar
  12. Forget G (1991) Pesticides and the third world. J Toxicol Environ Health 32:11–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gan J (2004) Risk and damage of southern pine beetle outbreaks under global climate change. Forest Ecol Manag 191:61–71CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Godfray HCJ, Beddington JR, Crute IR, Haddad L, Lawrence D, Muir JF, Pretty J, Robinson S, Thomas SM, Toulmin C (2010) Food security: the challenge of feeding 9 billion people. Science 327:812–818CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Jackson LS (2009) Chemical food safety issues in the United States: past, present, and future. J Agric Food Chem 57:8161–8170CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Kantiani L, Llorca M, Sanchís J, Farré M, Barceló D (2010) Emerging food contaminants: a review. Anal Bioanal Chem 398:2413–2427CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Koleva NG, Schneider UA (2009) The impact of climate change on the external cost of pesticide applications in US agriculture. Int J Agric Sustain 7:203–216CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Le Maitre DC, Richardson DM, Chapman RA (2004) Alien plant invasions in South Africa: driving forces and the human dimension. S Afr J Sci 100:103–112Google Scholar
  19. Mack RN, Simberloff D, Lonsdale WM, Evans H, Clout M, Bazzaz FA (2000) Biotic invasions: causes epidemiology, global consequences and control. Ecol Appl 10:689–710CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Malcolm JR, Markham A, Neilson RP, Garaci M (2002) Estimated migration rates under scenarios of global climate change. J Biogeogr 29:835–849CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Murray DL, Taylor PL (2001) Beyond safe use: challenging the international pesticide industry’s hazard reduction strategy. International Institute for Environment and Development, Gatekeeper Series No 103Google Scholar
  22. Oerke EC (2006) Crop losses to pests. J Agric Sci 144:31–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Pedigo LP, Hutchins SH, Higley LG (1986) Economic injury levels in theory and practice. Annu Rev Entomol 31:341–368CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Pimentel D (1997) Pest management in agriculture. In: Pimentel D (ed) Techniques for reducing pesticide use: environmental and economic benefits. Wiley, Chichester, UK, pp 1–11Google Scholar
  25. Pimentel D (2005) Environmental and economic costs of the application of pesticides primarily in the United States. Environ Dev Sustain 7:229–252CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Pimentel D, Greiner A (1997) Environmental and socio-economic costs of pesticide use. In: Pimentel D (ed) Techniques for reducing pesticide use: environmental and economic benefits. Wiley, Chichester, UK, pp 51–78Google Scholar
  27. Pimentel D, Stachow U, Takacs DA, Brubaker HW, Dumas AR, Meaney JJ, O’Neil JAS, Onsi DE, Corzilius DB (1992) Conserving biological diversity in agricultural/forestry systems. Bioscience 42:354–362CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Pimentel D, Zuniga R, Morrison D (2005) Update on the environmental and economic costs associated with alien-invasive species in the United States. Ecol Econ 52:273–288CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Pretty J, Bharucha ZP (2015) Integrated pest management for sustainable intensification of agriculture in Asia and Africa. Insects 6:152–182CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Pretty J, Waibel H (2005) Paying the price: the full cost of pesticides. In: Pretty J (ed) The pesticide detox: towards a more sustainable agriculture. Earthscan, London, pp 39–54Google Scholar
  31. Pretty J, Brett C, Gee D, Hine R, Mason C, Morison J, Rayment M, Van der Bijl G, Dobbs T (2001) Policy challenges and priorities for internalizing the externalities of modern agriculture. J Environ Plan Manag 44:263–283CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Ratnadass A, Fernandes P, Avelino J, Habib R (2012) Plant species diversity for sustainable management of crop pests and diseases in agroecosystems: a review. Agron Sustain Dev 32:273–303CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Richter ED (2002) Acute human pesticide poisonings. In: Pimentel D (ed) Encyclopedia of pest management. CRC, Boca Raton, FL, pp 3–6Google Scholar
  34. Sala OE, Chapin FS III, Armesto JJ, Berlow R, Bloomfield J, Dirzo R, Huber-Sanwald E, Huenneke LF, Jackson RB, Kinzig A, Leemans R, Lodge D, Mooney HA, Oesterheld M, Poff NL, Sykes MT, Walker BH, Walker M, Wall DH (2000) Global biodiversity scenarios for the year 2100. Science 287:1770–1774CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Sherwood S, Cole D, Crissman C, Peredes M (2005) From pesticides to people: improving ecosystem health in the Northern Andes. In: Pretty J (ed) The pesticide detox: towards a more sustainable agriculture. Earthscan, London, pp 147–164Google Scholar
  36. Song L, Wu J, Li C, Li F, Peng S, Chen B (2008) Different responses of invasive and native species to elevated CO2 concentration. Acta Oecol 35:128–135CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Struik PC, Kropff MJ (2003) An agricultural vision. In: Den Hond F, Groenewegen P, Van Straalen N (eds) Pesticides: problems, improvements, alternatives. Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, pp 16–30CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Tegtmeier EM, Duffy MD (2004) External costs of agricultural production in the United States. Int J Agric Sustain 2:155–175CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Van der Werf H (1996) Assessing the impact of pesticides on the environment. Agric Ecosyst Environ 60:81–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Van Wilgen BW, Reyers B, Le Maitre DC, Richardson DM, Schonegevel L (2007) A biome-scale assessment of the impact of invasive alien plants on ecosystem services in South Africa. J Environ Manage 89:336–349CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. West JS, Bravo C, Oberti R, Lemaire D, Moshou D, McCartney HA (2003) The potential of optical canopy measurement for targeted control of field crop diseases. Annu Rev Phytopathol 41:593–614CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Wilson C, Tisdell C (2001) Why farmers continue to use pesticides despite environmental, health and sustainability costs. Ecol Econ 39:449–462CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Agricultural DevelopmentDemocritus University of ThraceOrestiadaGreece

Personalised recommendations