Manejo integrado de plagas y plaguicidas

Keeping plants, people and the planet healthy with sustainable pest and pesticide management


The health of people, animals and ecosystems that underlines the One Health approach, relies on plants health. Plant-based diets, with their intake of vitamins and minerals, contribute to healthy lives for people and animals. Sustainable farming practices are the foundation for healthy and resilient ecosystems.

Pests are a threat to plant health and this has generated a global pesticide market for pest control that has steadily increased to more than 4 million tonnes annually. But, as FAO’s officer Buyung Hadi explains here, the cure may to be worse than the disease. The use of pesticides has impacts on human health and on the environment. Pesticide residues in food crops jeopardize food safety and international food trade. Widespread use of agrochemicals results in contamination of agricultural soils, freshwater resources, wetlands, estuarine and marine ecosystems and non-target vegetation. The inappropriate use of pesticides kills beneficial insects, reduces biodiversity and diminishes ecosystem services. Sustainable pest and pesticide management is a crucial for plant health and this is one of the most important messages of the International Day of Plant Health.

FAO Pest and Pesticide Management program works on key issues for plant health:

  • Sustainable Pest Management – Integrated Pest Management (IPM) provides nontoxic solutions as a first resort against pests to protect plant health and minimize pesticide risks to human health and the environment. IPM is an ecosystem-based crop protection strategy that carefully considers and integrates appropriate measures to discourage the development of pest populations and keep pesticides and other interventions to levels that are economically justified while reducing or minimizing risks to human health and the environment. The classical IPM pyramid provides an easy-to-grasp scheme of how different management strategies fit together. The base of the pyramid consists of various tactics that reinforce plant and environmental health and increase the crops resilience against pests. These strategies include the use of resistant or tolerant crop varieties, agroecological methods such as conservation of natural enemies, the enhancement of soil health, crop diversification and rotations, and the mass release of biocontrol agents. As the foundation of IPM, these strategies leverage and improve natural pest regulation in the ecosystem and must be prioritized in any IPM programme. Scouting and monitoring form the middle part of the pyramid to guide decision making for further interventions that are curative in nature. If deemed necessary and economically rational, biopesticides and pesticides form the top of IPM pyramid. Biopesticides are listed lower in the pyramid as they are usually seen as of lower relative risk for the environmental and human health. Synthetic pesticides are to be used only as the last resort. By prioritizing non-toxic and efficacious solutions such as resistant varieties and biopesticides, IPM approaches ensure the long-term suppression of endemic pest populations and increase the resilience of crop-production systems against new invasive pests and diseases.
  •  Sound Life-cycle management of pesticides: FAO with the Joint Meeting on Pesticides Management (JMPM) provides several tools that include the International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management and guidelines that support its implementation to advise governments, industry and other stakeholders on pesticide life-cycle management, regional and national policies, strategies and capacity building. Through the Joint Meeting on Pesticide Specifications (JMPS), FAO sets international standards for pesticide residues and specifications that provide concrete assistance to countries in assessing and mitigating pesticide risks.  Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs) are of particular concern due to their severe adverse effects to human health and the environment. FAO assists governments to replace HHPs with less hazardous alternatives. The FAO Pesticide Registration Toolkit is a web-based decision support system for the evaluation and authorization of pesticides designed for day-to-day use as a handbook by pesticide regulators especially in LMICs. FAO actively supports sustainable waste management through the sound disposal of obsolete pesticides and management of empty containers to reduce risks to farmers, consumers and the environment. Through various field projects, FAO and development partners help countries to solve complex pest and pesticide management problems.  
  • Reducing pesticide risks and mainstreaming biodiversity in agriculture: As part of an effort to promote environmental sustainability in agrifood systems, FAO supports countries to improve pesticide and biodiversity management in agriculture, including by strengthening the implementation of relevant Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs), relevant policies and programmes and facilitating the application of ecosystem-based practices and approaches in the field. As part of the One Health approach, FAO also addresses antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Through the promotion of good agricultural and production practices, biosecurity and infection control the need for antibiotics and fungicides for plant health is significantly reduced.
  • Food safety and Facilitating trade: Pesticide may pose risk to consumer’s health due to the residues that may remain on or in food after they are applied to food crops, while protecting plant from the damage of pests. The maximum residues limits (MRLs) in foods are commonly used all over the as the acceptable pesticide residue levels in food and often stipulated by regulatory bodies in many countries. Harmonization of acceptable pesticide residue limits is an appropriate and way out to promote fair international trade and to facilitate supply of safe food.  The Codex MRLs recommended by FAO and WHO Joint Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR) are estimated in a scientific bases and globally accepted, and cited by WTO as the reference points for food quality and safety in the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) and the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT). As a unique scientific advisory body to Codex on pesticide MRLs, JMPR plays an important role in risk assessment of pesticide residues in food and in international standard setting for food safety and trade.
  • Awareness raising and training on plant health though through Farmer Field School: the capacity of farmers to adapt to changing environments is critical for sustainable, economically viable and resilient rural development. The Farmer Field School (FFS) has proven in over 30 years to be an excellent approach to build farmers’ knowledge and skills for adaptive management. Farmer Field Schools (FFS) were first developed by FAO and other partners in the late 1980s as an educational tool to enable Asian rice farmers to understand complex systems and to adapt their decisions on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) according to the field situation based on understanding of agroecological processes, rather than following the standard protocols of input-intensive crop production. Farmer Field Schools on IPM are invaluable for the prevention of pest outbreaks. The FFS emphasizes on ecological learning, systems analysis, and experimentation, for groups of farmers who meet routinely for field-based sessions during an entire production cycle to learn how to make adaptive management decisions, find local solutions, and work together as group. FFS has a purpose to enable farmers to make improved agricultural decisions and, hence, to bring about a process of continued learning and action in rural development and plant health.

    Since the 1990s, FFS methods have been adopted for use in crops other than rice, and for topics other than IPM, and the FFS spread to over 90 countries from Asia into Africa, Latin America, the Mediterranean, the Near East and Central Asia. FFS today cover a wide range of topics, such as livestock, aquaculture, agroforestry and gender, but the approach still remains key to empower farmers in taking informed decisions on crop management.