Agricultural Fungicides and Public Health

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Logan Luce
Peter Leendertse

It is becoming clear that public health is increasingly at risk from resistance to some important fungicides, exacerbated by the overuse of agricultural fungicides. Fungicide resistance is showing up everywhere. Hardly a day passes without news of resistance to fungicide in another plant or animal -- bats, salamanders, Norway Maples, Hawthorns, wheat, corn, soy beans, coffee, potatoes, bananas, cats, cattle, honey bees, and now humans.

Strains of the fungus Aspergillus fumigatus that are resistant to medical azoles have been encountered more and more frequently in hospitals. This resistance is very likely caused by the widespread use of azoles, a major class of fungicide, as both biocide and pesticide. Consequently, it is imperative for both public health and for agriculture that this problem be studied in more detail to identify the main sources, and reduce the risks. Reducing the use of azole fungicides and biocides may be one of the measures required.

Peter Leendertse is senior adviser at CLM Research and advice where he is an ecotoxicologist specializing in sustainable crop protection and pesticides. At CLM Peter has developed the environmental yardstick for pesticides, a tool for farmers, advisers and policy makers. Peter is also studying new and emerging problems related to pesticides. The impact of pesticides on bees and the link between public health and resistance of non-target fungi are two clear examples.

CLM is an independent organization that stimulates sustainable agriculture by innovation, debate, research and advice.

Logan Luce, author of "Fungicide Resistance: Risk and Consequences in Modern Agriculture," is a Minneapolis based ecological consultant. He has conducted ecological research in agricultural landscapes across the upper Midwest and advises IATP on the developing issues related to fungicide resistance.