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I was very impressed by the title. It´s good isn´t it? It is much harder to say something
intellegent about it. But let me try:
Principles of ecological pest management
The over all goal of ecological agriculture is to create a cypernetic system, where harmfull
organisms are not removed, but where they are not harmfull. The dominent principle is
prevention and system design rather that treatment.
An old Taoist expression is, that your should not make fences and control to keep visitor in a
park on the paths. You should make paths where people work. Ecoloical agriculture is the
same principle: Follow nature.
Now, the ecological project is to develop agriculture in accordance with these principles. And
to help this development we have set up standards. For me as an organic farmer, the standards
have never been a problem. I don´t feel that the standards are telling me what to do. Rather
they are telling the consumers what I wan´t to do. I don´t reject pesticides because they are
not allowed in the standards. I reject them because I don`t want to use the, and the standards
tells the consumers, that I don´t want to use them.
The twin goals
The standards also have another role. The are guidelines for the farmers. Maybe I understand
why I should not use pesticides, but have less understanding of the animal wellfare. By
growing organic following the standards I learn not only how, but also why the ecological
attitude to nature is good.
The standards for ecological agriculture is a set of rules, that ensures that the principles of
ecology are met. Of course pesticides are banned, because pesticides can never be used in
order to meet the ecological principles.
The basic principle in the standard is, that you should follow the principles, and if you don´t
you will be punished. If you don´t prevent pests and weeds you will have low yields.
But some times we do have problems. We make mistakes, and we have a lack of knowledge.
In these cases we need some treatments. Therefore some direct treatments are allowed. For
example weed harrowings.
The effect of this intensive research in control measures is that the punishment for not
following the principles is decreased. You can get high yields even without preventing pests
and weeds. We have resistant varieties, so we don´t have to have a good crop rotation. We
can sterialice the seeds with steem and electric radiation and micro waves. We may end up
with an agriculture without pesticides, but not very ecological in terms of the fundamental
In norther and central Europe things are really working fast at the moment. A big research
programme started in Denmark two years ago, and many conventionel farmers converted to
organic production. My first reactions to this is of cource, that I am very happy about it. That
is what we all have hoped for and worked for, for many years.
But as a consequence of this, other tings are happening: The organic cropping system are
changing. One of the things that is very visible when we look at organic fields today compared
with just a few years ago is that the weeds have disappeared from the fields. And this is a
consequence of intensive harrowings. There has been intensive research in mechanical weed
control, and many big companies develop equipment and have economic interest in selling it to
the organic farmers. Newly converted farmers have still very conventional view on weeds and
other harmers of the crop and this in combination results in a very intensive weed treatment.
Now one view on the weed control is that it is nice to get rit of the weeds to the benefit of yield and economy. But on the other hand is has a price:
Without the weed there will be no insects, and no predators and then no natural biological
control of pests. There will no less birds, when they desturbed during egglaying. It is harmfull
for nature! All treatments have side effects!
Is that the ultimate consequence of good organic agriculture: A sterile nature, where flora and
founa is removed by mechanical methods rather than chemicals?
Until now the standards have been good. Without pesticides and artificial fertilisers the
farmers are forced to think in prevention. It has been very succesfull. But I am not sure it will
last. Today we are not forced to focus on prevention. A lot of new technics are offered now to
replace the pesticides. Mechanical weed control or biological seed treatment is not prevention.
One of the major effects of direct treatment rather than prevention is an increased energy
consumption. And this is not controlled by the standards. Only the ban of artificial fertilizers
meet the goal of reduced energy consumption.
Another thing is to think more in the subsidy programme. Schwitzerland and some German Länders have subsidy programmes where subsidy are given dependent on how different goals are met. This may also be an area, where IFOAM could be more active. Or even internally make the