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Best Practices and Alternatives Approaches to Pest Management

Last modified: 4/13/2016 3:33 PM

"Precautionary principles" or "Proactive or Preventive approach" & Integrated Pest Management

We are at an exciting juncture in the history of the world. On the one hand, we are faced with unprecedented threats to human health and the life-sustaining environment. On the other hand, we have opportunities to fundamentally change the way things are done. We do not have to accept "business as usual." Precaution is a guiding principle we can use to stop environmental degradation. The precautionary principles in simpler terms can be described as "A stitch in time saves nine".

As we struggle to understand the complex interactions between ecological systems and human society, we must recognize that there is much we do not know. The burden of scientific proof has posed a monumental barrier in the campaign to protect health and the environment. Actions to prevent harm are usually taken only after significant proof of harm is established, at which point it may be too late. When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause-and-effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.

The precautionary principle should be applied to all IPM decision-making processes including or leading to forming green-building or sustainable design development or maintenance policies & procedures.

Alternatives to conventional pesticide approach

A common criticism of the precautionary principle is that its implementation will lead to more hazardous activities. This need not be true, however, alternatives to a threatening activity must be equally well examined. Integral to the precautionary principle is a comprehensive, systematic analysis of alternatives to threatening activities. This refocuses the questions to be considered by a regulator or company from how much risk is acceptable to whether there is a safer and cleaner way to undertake this activity. The alternative approach may not necessarily be of zero-harm or zero-risk decision. But it is possible to move towards creating a safer and healthier environment by looking for the least harmful alternative. Assessing alternatives drives ingenuity and innovation. It is more difficult to dismiss proposals that not only name problems but also set forth alternatives, or demand that they be considered.

Cost of adopting alternatives approaches

Alternatives such as Plant Health Care (PHC), Revegetating natives or desired plants, Structural Vermin Proofing, Sustainable Design Improvements and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) have been around for years, but very few of us have the budgets to support such programs to the extent required. "How much will it cost to implement the proactive or preventive method, and can we afford it?" These are legitimate questions for taxpayers and policy makers alike. Tallying the "cost" of precaution requires making true value judgments, which can only partially be expressed in monetary terms. We have underestimated the requirement for adjustment in budgets, and structural, lawn & landscape or open spaces management practices, if pesticides are eliminated from our pest management toolkits.

We need to reform our budgeting principles that currently lean on analyzing annual (allocated or fixed cost funding per unit) conventional pesticide applications versus adoption of multi-year long-term sustainable IPM projects & practices. Moreover, most of us rarely consider the "external" costs of threatening activities harm to health, loss of species, etc. which are often unquantifiable. The links between environmental exposures, human & environmental health and costs to society demonstrate that taking precautionary measures to decrease the exposure to environmental contaminants can result in significant benefits for society as a whole. These concerns must be incorporated in the overall assessment of a management practice. Having done so, you will always find adequate resources within your existing budgets to adopt the alternatives. Keep in mind that something that is not economically or technically feasible today may be feasible in the near future and benefit in the long run.

Integrated Pest Management - Right tool, at the right time, in the right way

While we transform or reform our budgeting principles to accommodate long-term strategies, it is also important to understand that an arbitrary pesticide reduction rate imposed is an artificial barrier that impedes Integrated Pest Management principles. Whether it is a 10% or 70% reduction - it fundamentally opposes the concept of IPM - which is the right tool, at the right time, in the right way. IPM is a continuous system of controlling pests (weeds, diseases, insects or others) in which pests are identified, action thresholds are considered, and all possible control options are evaluated and considered. Prevention is a key part of Integrated Pest Management. Rather than having to take stronger action (such as opting for chemical intervention) later to handle a pest problem, the IPM tools work to prevent weed, insect and fungi problems from developing or worsening. The choice of which control to use is based on effectiveness, environmental impact, site characteristics, worker/public health and safety, and economics.

Best Practices

The following IPM guides will assist you further in understanding Best Management Practices (BMP) this regard:

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