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A number of chemical plant protection products, also known as pesticides, show harmful effects on ecosystems and biodiversity in their current use. Besides climate change, changes in global nutrient cycles and habitat destruction through altered land-use, the utilization of pesticides has also led to a dramatic loss of biodiversity. This is explained by a group of experts in the discussion paper published today by the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina "The Silent Spring - On the need for sustainable plant protection". The scientists call for more comprehensive approval procedures for pesticides to better control their environmental implications.
The authors point out, that the current approval procedures for pesticides fail to reflect many of their ecological effects outdoors. They recommend adaptions to pesticide approval procedures in order to make their use more environmentally sustainable. With regard to the active ingredient Glyphosate and the pesticide group of Neonicotinoids, the group of experts exemplarily characterized their opinion of deficits in the approval procedures and how they could be revised.
Often times plant protection products remain detectable in soil and water far longer than intended by the approval process. The experts are therefore proposing an observational system, which will review the long-term effects of pesticides on ecosystems during an initial trial under a geographically and temporally limited permit.
It is common agricultural practice to spread several pesticides as a tank-mix or a spray-series on fields. As a result, ecosystems are mainly exposed to a mixture of pesticides. According to scientists, the environmental impact of these pesticide mixtures is currently insufficiently examined. They recommend, that greater emphasis should be put on common agricultural practice and the environmental situation during the risk assessment process.
Within the frame work of risk assessment, so-called non-target organisms are also examined for impacts due to pesticide exposure. Non-target organisms are plants and animals for which the pesticide is not intended, but are possibly affected by the spreading on soil and water. The experts also recommend, that these impairments should be examined more extensively during the approval process.
Publications in the series "Leopoldina discussion" are contributions by the named authors. With these discussion papers, the Academy offers scientists an opportunity to provide thought-provoking impulses, stimulate discourses and formulate recommendations, flexible and in absence of a formal working group process.
Interviews with authors of the discussion paper are gladly arranged.