Agroecology 2 min

Pesticides, agriculture and the environment: reducing the use of pesticides and limiting their environmental impact.

A collective scientific expert report has been compiled at the request of the French Ministries for Agriculture and Fisheries and Ecology and Sustainable Development by INRA and CEMAGREF. This report reviews the state of our knowledge in this area, on which actions could be based aimed at reducing current levels of the use of pesticides and their environmental impact.

Published on 12 December 2005

illustration  Pesticides, agriculture and the environment: reducing the use of pesticides and limiting their environmental impact.
© INRAE, Michel Pitsch

In France, which ranks third in the world for the consumption of plant health products, questions are now being raised about how pesticides are employed

There are several reasons why it will be necessary, but difficult, to reduce pesticide use:

an increased level of awareness in society of the negative impacts of plant health products on the environment and even on human health,
a strengthening of European and French regulations concerning the approval and use of pesticides, aimed at limiting environmental contamination by these agents,
a reduction in the number of active substances which are authorised and effective,
the relative inefficacy of efforts made over the past twenty years to limit their use.

Review of the international scientific knowledge available

The collective scientific expert report commissioned from INRA and CEMAGREF by the Ministries for Agriculture and Fisheries and Ecology and Sustainable Development only concerns the agricultural use of pesticides, and excludes aspects relative to human health.

It consists in an analysis of current, worldwide scientific publications, the aim being to extract, discuss and assemble those elements which will throw light upon the questions raised by the sponsors. It was carried out by a group of some thirty experts from INRA, CEMAGREF, IRD and BRGM, all specialists in different disciplines.

This work has resulted in the compilation of an expert report and executive summary which were presented during a special seminar, held in Paris on December 15, 2005.

An update on current plant protection practices, their impacts, potential technical developments and how they can be encouraged

The expert report provides an update on the knowledge and data available concerning the agricultural use of pesticides, contamination of different compartments in the environment, and impacts on non-targeted organisms and ecosystems.

It examines how pesticides are dispersed in the environment, the techniques for and conditions of application of plant health products, crop management strategies and spatial developments in agricultural areas which might reduce this dispersion.

It analyses the logic and limitations of intensive and specialised farming systems, which thus encourage the development of harmful organisms (weeds, diseases and pests); such systems cannot exist without a relatively systematic use of pesticides, but because they are used repeatedly over time and on large areas of land, they accelerate the development of pest resistance to these substances.

The expert report then considers different types of production (field crops, legumes and perennial crops), the various non-chemical techniques which can be employed to control pest populations, the conditions required to ensure their efficacy, and the value of preventive strategies, i.e. cropping systems which reduce plant health risks.

It also studies the economic conditions which currently reinforce the dependence of production systems on pesticides, and the need to introduce pesticide-saving practices if society wishes for a significant reduction in pesticide use throughout the country and special protection for areas most vulnerable to contamination. Finally, it reviews the different regulatory and economic instruments which could be used as a basis for such policies.

Expertise report (in french)

Learn more

Agroecology

CA-SYS: a collaborative platform for experimentation in agroecology

Through the CA-SYS platform (Co-designed Agroecological System Experiment), INRA and its partners are designing experiments on innovative and sustainable agroecological systems. This arable infrastructure is using new experimental methods by combining varietal breeding, a minimisation of inputs, the exploitation of biological interactions and the organisation of agricultural space.

28 January 2020

A new French-Chinese International Associated Laboratory dedicated to agroecology and green development

PRESS RELEASE - During the visit of a delegation from the China Agricultural University (CAU) to INRAE on 16 January 2020, INRAE’s Chair & CEO Philippe Mauguin and CAU’s Council President Peimin Jiang were the first to sign the agreement for the creation of a new International Associated Laboratory (LIA) dedicated to Agroecology and Agricultural Green Development (A-AGD).
This new LIA A-AGD aims to coordinate collaborative efforts between the CAU and French research institutes and universities. The goal is to achieve excellence in scientific research and support the transition towards a more sustainable and multiperformance model of agriculture, based on the principles of agroecology, both in the cereal plains of the north of China and in France.

16 January 2020

Agroecology

Reducing pesticide use in agriculture without lowering productivity

PRESS RELEASE - As part of the DEPHY-Ferme network, a major component of the French government’s EcoPhyto plan to reduce and improve plant protection product use, researchers from INRAE working with the company Agrosolutions examined the relationship between pesticide use and cropping system performances in terms of productivity and profitability. The results, published in Nature Plants on 27 February 2017, show that pesticide use can be significantly reduced without lowering yields or economic performances at farm level if substantial changes in farming practices are adopted. However, implementing new practices is not necessarily easy and farmers need guidance in doing so.

12 February 2020