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Report Cites Public Heath Concerns with Fungicide Resistance

PHOTO: A new report from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy calls for changes in farming practices to end the over-reliance on chemical solutions that can speed up fungicide resistance. Photo credit: Dwayne Madden/Flickr.
PHOTO: A new report from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy calls for changes in farming practices to end the over-reliance on chemical solutions that can speed up fungicide resistance. Photo credit: Dwayne Madden/Flickr.
January 29, 2015

ST. PAUL, Minn. – A new study points to the growing threat of fungicide resistance to agriculture and public health, and calls for fundamental changes in how food is grown and traded.

The report is from the Minnesota-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

Dale Wiehoff, the institute’s vice president of communications, says the group's research shows that while the beneficial effects of fungicides are dwindling, fungal resistance is growing, partly due to biological evolution and partly due to human activities and agricultural practices.

"We've seen applications of fungicide not to control pathogens, but to increase yield,” he says. “And this kind of overuse of fungicides really speeds up the development of resistance."

Wiehoff adds other factors in fungicide resistance include multi-year mono-cropping and the worldwide movement of commodities, livestock and pests without any effective bio-security protocols.

Wiehoff says among the more alarming reports of late is from Europe, where researchers have found that the pervasive fungus Aspergillus, which can cause serious health problems for humans, has grown resistant to the common class of fungicides known as azoles.

"When this pathogen enters into your system and you're weak and sick, it can lead to serious lung disease,” Wiehoff explains. “And there are reports in the Netherlands of 30 people a month dying from complications related to fungicide resistance to azoles."

Wiehoff says instead of the short-term fix of developing new and more powerful fungicides, the key to preventing resistance and protecting public health and the environment is by encouraging ecological farming practices that are free of fungicides and other pesticides.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN