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Organic and IPM Partnership Needed to Address Critical Food Production Challenges

MADISON, WI. Nov 9, 2015— Society faces enormous challenges to meet the food needs of a rapidly growing global population, while addressing the adverse impacts of food production on human health, air and water quality, greenhouse gas emission, soil health, pollinators and biodiversity. Improvements are also critically needed to improve the economic viability of farming, and to recruit new farmers and the next generation of researchers and extension scientists to support farmers’ efforts to improve sustainability.

A new publication, Organic Agriculture and Integrated Pest Management: Synergistic Partnership Needed to Improve the Sustainability of Agriculture and Food Systems, is a product of a dynamic coalition of intellectuals and scientists. The report details the challenges we face, opportunities for collaborative pursuit of solutions, and recommends institutional and policy reforms to accelerate progress.

“Meeting current food needs is a necessity, no doubt, but we also need to take a long view.” declares Dr. Brian Baker, co-editor of the document. “The threats current agricultural technology pose to future productivity and resilience must be addressed if we are to meet the needs of future generations.”

Dr. Thomas Green, president of the IPM Institute of North America, based in Madison Wisconsin, adds, “While many farmers, scientists, food companies and others are working hard on solutions, collaboration among leaders and supporters of organic agriculture and Integrated Pest Management is a missed opportunity that can help us move towards more sustainable practices.”

Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, is a common-sense approach where pests are monitored and action is taken only when needed. Pest control options are evaluated and selected to minimize harm to health and environment. Certified organic producers are required to use IPM, as are growers in many other eco-labels consumers can find in stores including Rainforest Alliance, Forest Stewardship Council and others.

Organic and IPM practices fall far below their potential, with less than 10% of US cropland benefiting from these opportunities to reduce impacts. “Public and private investment in research, development, technology transfer and demonstration of organic, IPM and other sustainable farming systems has not kept pace with the demands of the global food system’s economic, ecological and social imperatives” states Dr. Baker. “While organic and IPM have some differences, we have much more in common and have opportunities to work together to fulfill these shared priorities.”

Additional recommendations include eliminating publicly funded programs that encourage unsustainable practices, and increasing incentives including pesticide registration improvements for product and service providers to develop, formulate and market more options that are compatible with organic and advanced IPM systems, including biologically based pesticides.

Authors include Dr. Daniel Cooley, University of Massachusetts Amherst; Susan Futrell, Red Tomato; Lyn Garling and Dr. Edwin Rajotte, Penn State University; Grace Gershuny, GAIA Services; Jeff Moyer, Rodale Institute; Abby Seaman, Cornell University; and Dr. Stephen Young of the Northeastern IPM Center. The publication is an effort of members of the Organic and IPM Working group and is available on their website at [https://organicipmwg.wordpress.com/documents-and-publications/]

This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, North Central IPM Center projects AG 2012-51120-20252 and AG 2014-70006-22486

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