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Objective 3

To assess the contribution, in terms of benefits as well as costs, of biopesticides to sustainability and whether their uptake will be constrained by social factors, including the composition of existing decision-making networks.

 

Scientific research, as outlined in Objective 2, could identify sustainability benefits from biopesticides, yet the regulatory system could function in such a way that the potential benefits for the rural economy, of quality food products more acceptable to consumers, might not be secured.   A principal concern is that ‘biopesticide development is locked into an inflexible and unimaginative chemical pesticide model.  In this position, all of the shortcomings of biopesticides relative to chemicals emerge and none of the benefits.’ (Waage, 1997, p. 14).   This is a classic case of the way in which a system of regulation is constructed preventing social benefits from being captured.  There is therefore a challenge to develop a regulatory system that can balance the costs and benefits of biopesticides.   Given that the existing actors in the policy network are primarily oriented to chemical solutions to pest infestation problems, how can change be brought about?   Policy network theory suggests that policy networks are good at managing incremental change, but generally only innovate in conditions of crisis or exogenous shock.   A major complicating factor is that the EU has the leading role in pesticide legislation.   The EU system of decision making and its inbuilt ‘checks and balances’ is not one designed for rapid policy change or for paradigm shifts.  However, member states can go beyond what is required by EU regulation and innovate provided that they act within Community law.

The political agenda can only deal with so many issues at any time and then focuses on a limited number of approaches to those issues.   The debate may be framed in such a way that some environmentally friendly means of pest control may not be given sufficient emphasis.   For example, the Voluntary Initiative in the UK seeks to develop a more environmentally friendly version of the chemical model rather than a genuine alternative.

This aspect of the project will:

• Specify the benefits and costs of biopesticides in terms of contributing to a sustainable and competitive agricultural industry based on the outcomes of Objectives 1 and 2.

• Using the insights of policy network theory and interviews with key actors, identify the change agents and processes that would create a momentum that would sustain regulatory innovation.

• The results of this objective, together with the findings from Objective 4, will be communicated with stakeholders in a workshop to discuss the way forward for biopesticide use and regulation. The workshop will capitalise on the dialogue generated between principal actors in the pesticide regulation system in Objective 1.