When was the last time you picked up a newspaper or magazine that did not have at least one article focussed on food, human population growth, the environment and the inextricable link between them? It is now impossible to ignore the exponential rate of growth in demand for food crops that have been produced safely and sustainably and farmers are increasingly turning to alternatives to conventional pesticides in order to meet this growing demand. Eden Research has been at the forefront of those accelerating changes for several years and is set to tap into a new significant market with the anticipated registration of Eden’s biopesticide active ingredients and first two commercial products in the US.
Second only to China, the US has one of the largest food markets in the world, contributing $1.109 trillion to its national GDP. This sizeable market and the nation’s growing demand for food is increasing the need for agricultural productivity and in turn driving demand for crop protection products.
Crops are vulnerable to attack from insects, weeds and diseases and the Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that 20-40 percent of global crop production are lost to pests each year. This results in staggering crop losses to diseases and insects of $220 billion and $70 billion respectively. To counter this, farmers in the US spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year on products that help them protect their crops and keep up with food demand.
Pesticides are a critical component of effective crop protection. However, conventional pesticides may contain chemicals that have been shown to be harmful to human health or the environment.
The use of pesticides can also hinder trade agreements and the US is effectively barred from trading certain produce with EU countries because of its acceptance of a number of harmful chemistries. Currently, US agriculture uses 72 pesticides that are banned or being phased out in the European Union (EU), 17 pesticides that are banned in Brazil, and 11 banned in China. To open up trading opportunities, the US is accelerating regulation around pesticides and residues.
The EPA has banned a number of commonly used products in recent years, including chlorpyrifos earlier this year; and the Biden administration has made a commitment to “limit exposure to dangerous chemicals and pesticides”, ordering action to confront the issues.
As consumers, we are increasingly educated and more curious about the origins of our food, particularly when it comes to safety and possible exposure to chemical residues. The organic food market in the US is growing at a significant level, having risen 12.4% in 2020, breaking the $60 million mark for the first time, and more than doubling the previous year’s growth, according to the Organic Trade Association.
And organic food is only part of the picture. The US now has more than 200 different ‘green’ and eco-labels on food in an effort to meet consumer demands for products that help them live a more sustainable and socially responsible life, including Non-GMO Project Verified, Fair Trade, and Rainforest Alliance.
So, how do farmers cope with the requirement to grow more crops, increase yields, on less land, with fewer inputs?
Part of the solution lies in the use of biopesticides, which are based on naturally occurring substances that offer farmers a more sustainable approach, without compromising efficacy, yield or production costs. Biopesticides typically offer a lower risk solution but are still rigorously assessed before approval for sale. Despite this, biopesticides are the fastest growing segment of the crop protection industry and use has increased in recent years as older, more damaging chemistry has been removed from the market due to consumer demands and the subsequent regulatory pressure.
Eden is currently seeking regulatory approval for its biopesticide products – Cedroz™ and Mevalone® - in the US, enabling it to tap into this significant market opportunity. Eden’s biopesticide product range offers growers a zero-residue solution, providing the additional benefit of avoiding product rejection by exporters, wholesalers or retailers.
Coastal and southern states such as California and Florida account for the vast majority of high value horticultural crops - including tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries and grapes. These are the main areas of agricultural opportunity for Eden and its products.
Eden already has a footprint on the continent through its authorisation and distribution of Cedroz in Mexico, a large exporter of fresh produce to the US, and we have a significant role to play in helping farmers in the US adapt to the shifting consumer and regulatory demands whilst protecting crop yields and quality.
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