In the past year, we have gathered hundreds of samples across the SPRINT case study sites (Click here for more information). Many of these samples will be used in microbiome analyses, including: soil samples, gut samples from fish, fecal samples from humans and livestock, and nasal swabs from humans. We will analyse the composition of microbes in these samples. All of these samples contain millions of bacteria, fungi and other micro-organisms, which in combination, are called the microbiome.

Argentina is the only non-European case study site included in SPRINT. We included Argentina in our project because it is the main exporter of soy for animal feed in Europe. In addition, this allows us to compare our findings in Europe against those in South America, where pesticides are often applied more frequently and in greater volumes. Argentina, our chosen case study, is the third biggest pesticide user in the world, with only China and the US using more. In addition, several of the pesticides used in Argentina are no longer approved for use across the EU, so this case study will provide insights into the risks of imported chemicals. This article provides an overview of farming in Argentina before examining the extent of pesticide reliance and the potential risks of current usage.

 On Friday 8th January, the UK government decided to allow the use of a neonicotinoid-based pesticide, thiamethoxam in emergencies. They had previously pledged to maintain a ban on this chemical in line with the EU’s stance towards neonicotinoids.

The UK is not the only country to make this decision, with 11 others also permitting the use of this pesticide in emergencies. These countries include Belgium, Denmark and Spain. These are not the first European countries to lift the ban of thiamethoxam on sugar beet fields; France has already lifted their ban on neonicotinoids.

The news headlines and Twitter uproar resulting from this decision suggests that the public are unhappy with this decision.

SPRINT recently attended a fascinating talk at the Oxford Real Farming Conference. Researchers from the University of Edinburgh shared their findings surrounding why pesticides may, paradoxically, benefit crop pests. The research was born from the work by a French agronomist, Francis Chaboussou. 

What are ‘plant protection products’?

The term ‘plant protection product’ refers to ‘pesticides’. These chemicals are used by farmers, gardeners and foresters to protect crops and increase their yields. Pesticides contain active ingredients such as toxic chemicals, plant extracts, pheromones, micro-organisms or viruses for controlling unwanted ‘pests’.  These ‘pests’ can include insects (insecticides), fungi (fungicides) or plants (herbicides).   

Due to the risks associated with PPPs, European regulations[1] place limits on how they are used. These regulations are based on the risks to human and environmental health associated with the active ingredients of PPPs.

 

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