Guide to Testing: Pesticides – are we spoilt for choice?

Read about the key topics impacting food and beverage testing labs in our latest Guide to Testing supplement.

Last month we hosted the first ever Food Safety Live in partnership with Shimadzu and Merck – a virtual conference which explored three key topics: sugar, mycotoxins and pesticides. During the pesticide segment, our expert lineup discussed whether we could do without these chemicals; the answer was a resounding ‘no’ – at least, not yet. The reason is due to the ever-growing population.

Pesticides are used to kill pests that threaten our crops; if we were to reduce their usage, this would mean far lower yields and food insecurity would worsen.

We do have options on the table, such as moving towards biopesticides, genetically modified crops and organic farming (although the latter, contrary to popular belief, does still use pesticides; it’s just that the majority of these are of low toxicological concern, eg, spearmint oil). The fact of the matter is that we are currently not in a position to make such compromises given that we are struggling to feed the world.

Instead, the panel recommended improved control over what is used. Currently, there are more than 1,000 different pesticides in use around the world1 and so many options limits our control and puts excessive pressure on labs who are being asked to increasingly widen their scopes. One of the main concerns for labs today is ROI and the panellists agreed a more efficient system is required.

So why are there so many options? Two reasons come to mind: one, just like with veterinary drugs and antibiotic resistance, we are seeing resilience against pesticides; and two, the commercial gain to be had. So I pose the question to you, dear readers: are we spoilt for choice or fortunate to have options?

You can read about pesticides in this issue, among a plethora of other key technical topics, and if you’re keen to catch up on Food Safety Live, you can register here and watch on demand

Featuring the expertise of i2 FAST, ALS, Bia Analytical, Eurofins, One Scientific, and more!