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Food and consumer safety

The safety of agricultural products to human health and the environment is determined on the basis of extensive testing.

An important, and often overlooked, aspect of stewardship is effectively communicating key information to the public. Sounds simple, but in reality communicating the risks and benefits of crop protection products and biotechnology is a major hurdle facing the industry.

People living in proximity to Agriculture quite often ask “What are you spraying and why?”. This kind of question is being asked more and more as urban sprawl continues to spread into agricultural areas. It is a major challenge – because many people do not understand how food is produced and are unaware of the necessity of inputs, water protection and crop stewardship in relation to producing large quantities of food at an affordable price. Good quality, relevant information is necessary to enable people to develop their own understandings.

The safety of agricultural products to human health and the environment is determined on the basis of extensive testing. Many products are synthetic copies of naturally occurring chemicals modified to have properties more acceptable to agriculture and the environment. In many cases the synthetic product is no more toxic than its naturally occurring counterpart. For example, scientist Bruce Ames (University of California) has determined that we are exposed to 10,000 times more natural pesticides made by plants than applied synthetic pesticides.

Information on risks should be provided together with information on benefits. Examples of effective messages on benefits include the use of agricultural products in Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Also addressing the impact a specific disease or pest has on a crop or ecosystem is key. Use of these products may replace environmentally less favourable chemicals or practices (such as the use of pesticides in place of tillage) or a reduction of overall crop protection inputs to the crop.

Public concerns do, and should, contribute to agricultural crop protection legislation and policies. However, regulators must be provided with the relevant information based on sound science in order to make more informed judgments about the risks of these products to health, safety and the environment.


 
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