from James P. Tette, Director, NYS IPM Program
New York's agricultural production will likely be affected in several ways by legislative action taken in 1996. The impact of the new federal laws related to the passage of the Food Quality Protection Act will require the EPA to go back and look more carefully at the risks synthetic pesticides might pose to the health of all people, and particularly to the health of infants and young children. New state legislation passed in 1996 requires agricultural businesses to record and report more details about their pesticide use than was previously required.
One issue that stimulated the latter regulatory action was the concern over the possible connection of pesticides to breast cancer in women through disruption of endocrine receptors in the human system.
There is no doubt that science does not fully understand the risks that synthetic pesticides pose to our environment and our health, and it may take years of research to uncover the answers. This is one of the many reasons why it is imperative for the state to continue to encourage the practice of Integrated Pest Management, with its comprehensive set of options for producers to rely upon as they manage their pest problems. The options that IPM can offer make sole reliance upon synthetic pesticides a thing of the past.
Because IPM is a concept that continues to attract attention and interest from agricultural producers, agribusiness and the general public, it is worthwhile to define and restate the mission and some of the goals of the New York State IPM Program.
Integrated pest management (IPM) for agriculture is the application of an interconnected set of principles and methods to problems caused by insects, diseases, weeds and other agricultural pests. IPM includes pest prevention techniques, pest monitoring methods, biological controls, pest-resistant plant varieties, pest attractants and repellents, biopesticides, and synthetic organic pesticides. It also involves the use of weather data to predict the onset of pest attack, and cultural practices such as rotation, mulching, raised planting beds, narrow plant rows, and interseeding.
The mission of the New York State IPM Program is to educate and encourage agricultural producers to grow crops and raise animals using pest management methods that
- reduce or replace the use of synthetic organic pesticides
- are environmentally sound
- pose minimal risk to human health
- enable growers to obtain a reasonable return on investment
- ensure consumers a supply of high-quality, safe, and economical foods and other agriculturally related products.
Given this mission, the New York State IPM Program works to
- develop strategies that help the agricultural industry strike a better balance between biologically intensive and chemically intensive methods of managing pests
- conduct educational demonstrations, workshops, schools, courses, and pilot projects for growers and agribusiness personnel to learn the concepts of IPM so that these principles become routine in farm management operations
- encourage the development of a private IPM service sector that will supply IPM services to growers and farmers
- document economic and environmental data that measure the
benefits of IPM as a shift to biologically intensive methods occurs
cooperate with the private sector and with state and federal agencies in the extension of IPM knowledge to producers through demonstrations
- provide educational opportunities for consumers and environmentalists in the concepts of IPM so they will understand and support it
Where we've been...where we're going
Over the years the program has searched for and demonstrated many alternatives to pesticides through a grants program. A brief look at some of the categories of approaches that have been addressed through the grants program shows that since 1991 the program has funded 53 projects concerning biological control, 11 projects leading to the development of pest-resistant plant varieties, 40 projects using cultural methods to combat pests, 35 projects on forecasting pest attack,131 on-farm demonstration projects, 11 multidimensional (systems approach) projects, and 3 projects related to pest biology. This comprehensive and detailed array is one reason that the New York State IPM Program is one of the best in the nation.
The Program continues to document the impact of funds it receives from state and federal sources, and these data continue to show that agricultural producers are committed to increasing their environmental stewardship as they adopt many of the IPM practices available to them. The data also show that pesticide use and associated risk continues to decline in New York, primarily as the result of this Program's efforts.
New York is on the verge of seeing several of its crops being raised with no synthetic pesticide inputs. However, it may also be on the verge of seeing the risk reduction accomplishments languish unless its citizens take the time to understand that significant changes in agricultural crop protection only take place over several years. In many ways the easy part of developing and demonstrating IPM methods is behind us. Pesticide use and risk have been significantly reduced in many crops across the state, but further reductions will come more slowly as growers and scientists learn how biologically intensive IPM methods can be employed. These methods may work very well for several years, but their very nature requires study and confidence building over many years. The citizens of New York will need to exhibit a good degree of patience and be willing to continue support for the IPM Program if we are to realize new reductions in risk from pesticides.