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Reducing pesticide use is one of the cornerstones of sustainable agriculture. And it is easy to see why. By cutting the use of chemical pesticides farmers can protect the environment, for example by enhancing biodiversity and promoting the presence of natural enemies of their pests and diseases. At the same time they can save money, increase productivity by reducing yield losses and safeguard the health of their workers. More and more consumers want to buy food made with fewer chemicals too. However, reducing pesticide use isn’t always straightforward. That’s why UTZ has signed an historic agreement with seven other organizations to help address the issue.
Pesticide use – a challenging issue
The best way to reduce pesticide use is to adopt integrated pest management (IPM) techniques. This means using alternative methods for pest control including mechanical, cultural and biological methods, and eliminating the most harmful chemicals. It is one of the key requirements in the UTZ program. But it can be difficult for farmers to implement the techniques involved and not all farmers can easily access these alternative methods. Other challenges include making sure that workers use the right protective equipment when spraying pesticides and that empty containers are disposed of safely.
A common platform
To help tackle these problems, the Integrated Pest Management Coalition was set up, in which UTZ and its fellow sustainability programs agreed to share information and resources and come together to find new solutions. One of the first projects will be the creation of a shared online platform with information on the hazards of specific pesticides and alternative pest control techniques. This will be accessible to producers and designed to help speed up the certification process by assisting farmers to adopt IPM techniques.
Eight organizations are involved in the coalition so far, covering many different crops and commodities. The current members are Better Cotton Initiative, Bonsucro, Fairtrade International, Global Coffee Platform, Golf Environment Organisation, Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials, Sustainable Agriculture Network and UTZ, all members of the ISEAL Alliance. It is one of the latest examples of certification schemes working together to maximize their impact and improve efficiency, with other examples including work on living wage and gender.
Karin Kreider, Executive Director of ISEAL, endorses the coalition, saying:
This pesticides agreement represents a great collaboration and sets an example for other standards and labels working on common issues. One of the hallmarks of a credible sustainability standard is to work with others to foster harmonization while also reducing duplication.