Science backs use of neonicotinoids
Through this letter, I wish to address issues and misconceptions on the coconut scale insect (“cocolisap” or Aspidiotus rigidus) that is currently plaguing our coconut industry, and the allegations by an agribusinessman from Pagadian, who has a Thailand-variety coconut farm, Rey F. Quisumbing (“Chemical use to stop coco pest doubted,” Across the Nation, 6/16/14).
1. The immediate challenge to arrest/contain a cocolisap outbreak population and its further spread from the affected areas (Calabarzon) to protect the rest of the country. The idea is to reduce the outbreak population to a level that will not affect coconut yield, and to slow down its spread to
allow some time for researchers to further work on its effective natural enemies.
2. The control scheme in
Calabarzon (cutting infested leaves, trunk-injection, need-based spraying of organic chemicals) has been identified by a group of reputable scientists from the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), the Department of Science and Technology and the University of the Philippines Los Baños. The use of insecticide—whether chemical, organic, or botanical in origin—whose mode of action requires physical contact with the insect pest, is constrained mainly by the practicality of spray application in very remote mountain areas. Spraying coconut trees several meters tall would require considerable energy and a significant volume of water to pump up the solution to the tree canopy. Add to this the risks to the men doing the spraying and to the environment freely receiving the sprays (inorganic or organic materials).
3. Hence, the use of systemic insecticides that can be injected into the trunk will pose fewer risks. The research team through the DOST, after scientifically evaluating several systemic insecticides, agreed to endorse to the PCA the use of neonicotinoids, which are classified by the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA) as “green”-label products. The insecticide used for the control of the coconut leaf beetle that threatened the coconut industry some 15 years ago also belongs to the neonicotinoids and was also trunk-injected.
4. Backed by scientific evidence, the research team recommended the three commercially available neonicotinoids to the PCA. The PCA then endorsed all three to the FPA which, by law, requires that companies marketing these materials must comply with FPA requirements before an emergency-use permit is issued.
5. To date, only two companies (Leads Agri owned by Fernando Malveda, and Biostadt) have complied with the FPA requirements. One company did not apply for the necessary FPA permit, while another has yet to complete the requirements. The research team is in the process of evaluating organic materials.
Any allegation of collusion for monetary reason between and among the groups that are working hard to control the spread of cocolisap is therefore unprofessional, malicious and a slight to the government, the academe and the private sector.
—LUIS REY I. VELASCO, PhD,
professor of entomology,
University of the Philippines