UPLB NCPC and CropLife Philippines hold forum to discuss pesticides' impact on food security and safety

Farmers, members of the academe, government representatives, and industry leaders came together on 12 February 2019 at the Acacia Hotel in Muntinlupa City to discuss pesticides and their impact on food security and safety. Organized by the University of the Philippines Los Baños National Crop Protection Center and CropLife Philippines, the Stakeholders Forum was a fruitful event that paved the way for a holistic and science-based collaboration.

The one-day forum aimed to promote Integrated Resource Management as key science-based strategies for sustainable agriculture and environment protection and management, as well as to generate support from policy makers and regulators in support of said strategies and risk-based regulations. To meet its objective, the program was composed of lectures on the importance of pesticides in food production, food security, food safety, and the environment; on the negative perceptions of pesticides, and supervised pesticide residue trials.

Wilfredo C. Roldan, Executive Director of the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority, formally opened the program by emphasizing that food security and food safety are not responsibilities of just one or two people—it is a shared responsibility which can be achieved together.

On food production and security

Mr. Duke Hipp from CropLife Asia opened the first session as he discussed perspectives of CropLife on crop protection contributions to regional and global food security. Key takeaways included the promotion of science based criteria in regulating plant science, and effectively communicating the value that technology can contribute to agriculture.

“We see agriculture as a global industry that responds to the challenges of the expanding population and satisfying demands—there is no silver bullet, but a mosaic of solutions is required,” Duke said. He also encouraged the participants to think about the smallholder farms and the challenges on pest diseases that they are experiencing.

Product registration in the Philippines was discussed next by Ms. Bella Fe D. Carmona, Chemist III from the Fertilizer and Pest Authority, and Mr. Gerald E. Cammagay, a Science Research Specialist from the Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Standards.

Ms. Carmona gave an overview of the FPA’s history, legal basis, and the purpose of pesticide product registration. She also shared briefly the steps in the registration procedure as well as the types of required data. Other points of discussion included the types of registration granted, the period of validity and renewal of registration, the experimental use permit, and pesticide licensing procedures among others.

Mr. Cammagay, on the other hand, focused on organic agriculture in the Philippines and the regulation on organic biocontrol agents. He discussed the registration process overview, requirements for trials, requirements for importation and exportation, labeling of registered OBCA products, and the use of the official organic mark.

Lastly, Dr. Susan May F. Calumpang of the UPLB National Crop Protection Center talked about pesticide toxicology and its use in risk management. She emphasized that risk involves hazard, exposure, and frequency. She also shared some ways and techniques that can help manage and reduce risks from pesticide residues in the food that we eat every day.

On environmental protection and management

Dr. Cleofas R. Cervancia, “Queen Bee” and Professor Emeritus from UPLB, discussed about pollinators and biodiversity, specifically about the stingless bees used in large scale mango plantations. Dr. Cervancia also emphasized that chemicals and substances must never be sprayed during full bloom when the pollinators are most abundant because it will disrupt the natural foraging.

Cristina M. Bajet, Scientist from UPLB NCPC, gave a presentation on the pathways of pesticide residues, related consumer risks, common misconceptions about the maximum residue limit, and various ways that stakeholders can help reduce residues. These techniques include consuming non-traditional vegetables, starting your own backyard garden, and eating a variety of fruits and vegetables.

Occupational safety and health when it comes to pesticide use was tackled by the third speaker, Dr. Marco Antonio S. Valeros, Medical Officer-IV of the Bureau of Working Conditions of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). He talked about personnel safety, protective equipment, transport and storage of pesticides, and even health surveillance.

On integrated pest management and technology

Starting off with Dr. Mario V. Navasero of UPLB NCPC, the afternoon session was another eye-opener. He zeroed in on pesticides as a component of Integrated Pest Management (IPM). IPM actually pertains to the combination of best practices in order to maximize the production of crops and reduction of pests. He gave a very objective and informative overview of three current pest management strategies before discussing when to use pesticides. He ended with specific measures to address and minimize the disadvantages of pesticides.

The last talk was from Mr. Anthony Tan, the founder of New Hope Corp., a licensed distributor of DJI—the world’s largest drone manufacturer. “Human imagination knows no boundaries,” was the quote that kicked of Mr. Tan’s presentation. He then continued to wow the participants as he showed the possibilities that could be achieved through the use of drones such as tree planting automation and precise spraying.

Collaboration and looking to the future

The participants were given time to break into smaller groups to discuss issues and concerns on food production and food security in relation to pesticides, food safety and supervised pesticide residue trials (SPRT), environmental issues, negative perception of pesticide, and insecticide resistance management.

Recommendations from the groups included conducting stewardship programs, investing in social media campaigns, intensive information dissemination, and educating farmers on proper use of pesticides.

The event ended with closing remarks and encouraging words from CropLife Philippines’ Executive Director Mr. Edilberto M. De Luna.