Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an approach to managing pests, diseases or weeds under which chemical pesticides are used only as a last resort, if at all. It sits in direct contrast to the majority of conventional agriculture in which pesticides tend to be the first weapon of choice for dealing with unwanted organisms. There is no doubt that, properly implemented, IPM systems can effectively deal with harmful pests and diseases whilst maintaining crop yields, farmer income and delivering a more environmentally-sustainable agricultural system.
PAN UK has been campaigning to promote IPM as an effective way to reduce pesticide use for decades and we are now winning the argument with international organisations such as the UN and EU coming on board. However, pro-pesticide groups and the agrochemical industry are seeking to water down the definition of IPM, presenting it as little more than a ‘business as usual’ approach under which pesticide use continues to rise while biodiversity plummets.
In reality, IPM should not be viewed as one technique, but as a suite of tactics that should be used in a holistic way before, during, and after the growing of a crop. UK supermarkets must avoid the piecemeal approach that cherry picks individual IPM techniques and support their suppliers to shift to a whole system approach if the full range of benefits for farmers and reductions in pesticide use are to be achieved.