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Antimicrobial Resistance

Plant production

What is the problem

Over the last decades, agricultural intensification has led to a significant increase in the use of agrochemicals. Pesticides play an important role in reducing losses in crop production. However, their misuse can have serious negative impacts on both people and the environment. The misuse and overuse of pesticides including antimicrobial products/ antibiotics lead to occupational exposure, risks for consumers and environmental pollution. The problems are more severe in developing countries.

Although estimates show that the amount of antimicrobials used for crops is relatively low in comparison to the quantities used in livestock, the potential risk of AMR should not be ignored. For example, the residues of fungicides and antibiotics in crops may encourage emergence of resistant strains of fungus and bacteria and possibly increase the risk of human resistance to the drugs.   

Challenges and Solutions

The challenge is how to promote proper use of pesticides in the sustainable intensification of agriculture, minimizing the negative effects of pesticides on farmers, consumers and the environment. We need to shift towards sustainable pest management practices that reduce reliance on pesticides while providing effective protection against crop losses from pests. In parallel, farmer education and regulatory control of pesticides need to be strengthened to address overuse and misuse of pesticides. The new FAO strategic framework explicitly supports sustainable agricultural production as one of its five strategic objectives. As part of this wider objective, FAO strongly works towards Pesticide Risk Reduction.

In particular FAO,

  • promotes Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to minimize the use of pesticides including regulating strictly the use of antimicrobials/antibiotics. IPM is an ecological approach to growing healthy crops.  FAO works with countries to build the capacity of small-holder farmers to grow healthy crops through Farmer Field School programmes which  includes an understanding of ecological pest management.
  • develops and assists countries in  implementation of the International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management.The Code provides guidance to government regulators, private sector, civil society and other stakeholders on best practices in managing pesticides through out their life-cycle. A series of policy and technical guidelines have been developed to facilitate its implementation.  FAO works alongside governments on raising awareness and on building capacities to regulate, monitor, and sustainably manage pesticides. Specific guidelines are under the development for strengthening regulation and registration of anti-microbial pesticides to minimise risk of antimicrobial resistance. 
  • To assists pesticide registrars with the evaluation of pesticides, FAO developed the FAO Pesticide Registration Toolkit, a web-based decision support system for pesticide registrars in developing countries. 
  • In collaboration with the WHO, FAO sets food safety standards -Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) in food and pesticide quality standards (specifications) to protect consumers’ health and environment.

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