Scientists warn vs use of pesticides on coco pest
MANILA, Philippines—A group of scientists has warned against the use of chemical pesticides containing dinotefuran to control coconut scale insects (CSI) or “cocolisap,” which has ravaged over 60 percent of the total coconut farming areas in the country.
The Agham-Advocates of Science and Technology for the People cautioned the government against using chemical methods and other knee-jerk reactions to combat the CSI aspidiotus rigidus infestation, which could worsen the damage to the coconut industry.
“Instead of abating the current situation, this step could further damage our coconut industry,” Agham secretary general and entomologist Finesa Cosico said.
Cosico was referring particularly to the use of dinotefuran, which is a pesticide that has been found harmful to pollinators such as bees. The coconut is a cross-pollinated type of plant that depends on self-pollination or pollination by an agent.
To control the cocolisap infestation, the government has promoted the use of systemic pesticides, which could have an adverse environmental impact.
“The administration of systemic pesticides to control CSI must be carefully studied prior to the massive scale of application to the affected coconut farm areas. The government must not rely solely on the use of chemical methods to eliminate CSI,” Cosico said.
“More importantly, the promotion of any method must be embedded in the support that should be given to the coconut farmers. Ultimately, to increase agricultural productivity, the focus should be in increasing the capacity of farmers to combat the impact of pests, diseases and other environmental stresses,” Cosico said.
Dinotefuran is an active ingredient in neonicotinoid, a type of pesticide that controls various types of insect pests. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, dinotefuran is highly soluble and highly mobile, easily leaching to the subsurface, and is resistant to biodegradation.
Effect on bees
Agham said the most controversial issue in the use of neonicotinoids is its effect on pollinators, particularly bees, which could come in direct contact with the chemical or indirectly ingest it through its residues on blooming crops.
The exposure of bees to neonicotinoids could result in colony collapse disorder. The mass disappearance of pollinators was first observed in the United States in 2006.
According to Agham, switching to other “organic and biodegradable” chemicals is still not an assurance that it would be safe for the environment and public health.
The group instead suggested the use of integrated pest management to control the CSI infestation while providing immediate relief to affected coconut farmers.
Cosico said integrated pest management combines cultural practices and physical methods, such as pruning and the removal of affected trees as pest control strategies.
“The use of synthetic pesticide must be a last resort, especially in the case of the CSI because of the lethal effects of dinotefuran to beneficial insects,” she said.
The Department of Budget and Management recently set aside at least P400 million for the six-month scale insect emergency action program of the Philippine Coconut Authority after President Aquino signed an executive order for measures to control the spread of the cocolisap.
Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization Secretary Francis Pangilinan has said that over P750 million is needed for the program, which will be undertaken in three phases involving the injection of insecticides, pruning and burning, setting up of a scale insect laboratory for bio-agents, rehabilitation, surveillance and quarantine.
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