Worldwide, the annual sales of crop protection chemicals on cotton increased from $2.6 billion in 1999 to more than $3 billion in 2009, according to the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC).
Crop intensification has been successful largely in part to pesticide and crop input use, the organization said in a report.
The repercussions have been mostly positive, allowing farmers to reap more on existing farmland, thereby generating better income and taking steps to lift them out of a subsistence treadmill. However, some pesticides the World Health Organization (WHO) identified as harmful to the environment and humans should be reevaluated, largely in developing economies where responsible use programs are not well articulated, according to ICAC’s Expert Panel on Social, Environmental and Economic Performance of Cotton Production (SEEP).
In addition, the committee advocated more efficient or even the elimination of pesticide use on cotton to reduce the risk of health repercussions on farmers, families and those in the cotton industry.
The use of active ingredients that could cause environmental harm was also addressed. Countries that have pesticides in their supply chain that cause the “highest contribution to the environmental toxicity load” should minimize use in order to reduce damage to aquatic organisms and bees, said SEEP.
Lastly, governments should encourage the collection of reliable, quality crop data related to pesticide use.
“Accurate data are indispensable for the follow‐up of risk assessment studies, although schemes of data collection might vary according to country conditions,” SEEP said.
Organizations such as ICAC and CropLife International have programs around the world that advocate responsible use programs, container recycling, integrated pest management and other farming initiatives that promote economic, agronomic and environmental sustainability.