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The European objective within the Farm to Fork strategy to use 50% less insecticides in farming is technically possible, but unattainable in practice. Admission procedures in Europe are too complicated, obscure and inconsistent.
Editorial office / Brussels

This is what Irina Borodina stated at EFIB 2020. Borodina is a professor at the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability, Technical University of Denmark and CTO of BioPhero, a Danish company that develops biosynthetic pheromones.

Pheromones are, according to Borodina, the solution to reduce the use of insecticides. By placing systems along the fields that disperse these volatile attractants, male insects become confused and cannot find the females, so that the specific insect species to which they belong can no longer reproduce and the population decreases.

Pheromones are specific to each insect, non-toxic and volatile substances, that do not end up in the plant. This makes their scope of use very broad, including the production of fruits and vegetables for human consumption.

Chemical pheromones are already on the market for some time now, but their high prices are the main reason for farmers not to use them. BioPhero developed a method to make pheromones biosynthetically and cost effectively, by means of fermentation techniques. The company announced today that they were able to scale up to a commercial production scale, thanks to funding by the Bio-Based Industry Joint Undertaling (BBI JU) of the project PHERA.

Great future

Despite the many advantages, however, pheromones cannot yet be used on a large scale, due to the slow authorization procedure in Europe, which also differs per Member State. In the US it is possible to register pheromones for use in agriculture within six months. In Europe the procedure takes four years.

According to Borodina, the regulators themselves have made their procedures so complex and obscure that they have become overwhelmed and no longer have the capacity to perform their duties properly. Some authorities even no longer respond to emails and phone calls, while others told her that her application would not be processed until the end of 2021.

Borodina is convinced that there is a great future for pheromones in agriculture. “They will certainly come. Worldwide, except perhaps in Europe.”

EFIB 2020

EFIB is the leading European event for industrial biotechnology. The conference is currently taking place digitally from 5 to 9 October 2020. For more information, see the EFIB website.

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