Better Cotton has announced that a pesticide reduction target for 2030 is in the works, as it looks to mitigate the risk of environmental and human harm from potentially hazardous substances, media reported.
The safe use of pesticides – only where necessary – is just one pillar in the organization’s strategy which also addresses climate change, soil health, farmer livelihoods, and women’s empowerment.
“We’re keeping an open mind and exploring a broad range of approaches. Ultimately, we’ll define the target with the greatest chance of making a positive impact,” the initiative said in a statement.
The organization – which works with cotton farmers around the world, helping them adopt more sustainable agricultural practices – recognizes that pesticides should be a last resort but insists some are necessary to protect crops.
It says farmers enrolled in its network can only use nationally registered products for cotton, as it prohibits the use of products classified as highly hazardous synthetic pesticides and acute toxic substances.
The upcoming target – which will be informed by ongoing field-level analyses and consultations with industry stakeholders – is expected to build on the non-profit’s Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach and is to be strengthened by revisions to its principles and criteria for pesticides.
With regard to its data collection work, the organization concedes that it isn’t a “straightforward” process, as it needs to understand the volumes of pesticides used in various geographies to gain more in-depth insights into the toxicity of active ingredients.
“We need to make sure we have identified exactly which active ingredients are in each pesticide product used and in what volume they are used in, in every production country. Any recommendations we make must help smallholders to improve their yields and income. This is a delicate balance to maintain,” Better Cotton said.
“To overcome the restricted choice of pesticides in some areas, we will need to deploy a systemic approach that takes into account the need to transform pesticide markets. This could include working with input providers to help explore more sustainable alternatives, and engaging in more advocacy work to encourage policymakers and regulators to define appropriate legal frameworks that catalyze change,” it added.
Further studies are to get underway in India, Pakistan, and Brazil to explore the promise of an evaluation tool that could measure farmers’ progress towards sound integrated pest management.