WBF escalates biopesticide regulatory reform with questions in the UK Parliament

The World Bioprotection Forum has taken great steps to advance its regulatory campaign for global biopesticide regulatory reform, with Parliamentary questions tabled for the UK’s DEFRA[ DEFRA: Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, within the UK Government] Secretary of State, and a conference at the Palace of Westminster in September 2023.

Bioprotection (also commonly referred to as biocontrol or biopesticides) is a fast-growing segment of agriculture crop protection and plant health management, offering sustainable alternatives for farmers. Over the past two decades, significant advances in formulation techniques have led to the development of extremely effective bioprotectants. However, the main obstacle to these products reaching the market has been an inappropriate regulatory system that is based on chemical products rather than biologicals, and is unfit for the purpose of new registrations.

Since early 2022, the World BioProtection Forum (WBF) has been working on a campaign for global regulatory reform for bioprotectants. The WBF’s unique strategy has been to first enact change in a competent authority known to be willing to change and, once those reforms have been achieved, to use that case to encourage further reforms in other regions (e.g. the EU and Global).

Tristan Jervis, Public Affairs Consultant for the WBF, explained, “The UK Government’s plans to review many regulations post-Brexit provided an opportunity to deliver, in a competent authority, those reforms. As well as supporting the bioprotectant industry and the UK economy, sensible reforms would be consistent with the Brexit Freedoms Bill to amend or replace legislation not fitting the needs of Industry.”

Throughout 2022, the WBF established a working relationship with the UK government’s pesticide policy hub, and obtained agreement that they should work with the WBF on biopesticide reform. Pursuant to this agreement, the WBF produced an authoritative White Paper, entitled Creating the World’s Best-in-Class Biopesticide/Bioprotectant Regulatory System, based on extensive discussions with experts from industry and academia, which lays out the argument for regulatory reform for the licensing of new bioprotection products. In early 2023, the WBF White Paper was shared with various departments and policy groups within the UK Government.
WBF White Paper

Following a meeting between the WBF and Barry Gardiner MP, member of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee (and a former Government Minister at DEFRA with responsibility for biodiversity), Mr Gardiner tabled a question to ask what assessment had been made of the potential merits of treating bioprotectants under a separate regulatory system to chemical pesticides.

This question was answered on 3rd July by Mark Spencer MP, Minister of State, Minister of State for Food, Farming and Fisheries, who responded: “Microbiologicals formulated into products, semiochemicals, plant extracts, and other substances based on biological materials are regulated as biopesticides, under the same regulatory system as chemical pesticides, if one of their functions is to protect a plant from pests. We currently do not intend to change this. However, we plan to review regulatory processes and data requirements to identify where approvals and permissions for biopesticides can be made simpler and speedier. Our assessment is that this should reduce regulatory burden on applicants and lead to quicker approval timelines, without compromising environmental and human health standards.”

The WBF will continue speaking with key ministers, policy makers and department representatives to ensure that these ongoing reviews and reforms align with industry requirements, and they will continue to argue for the separation of regulations for biological and chemical products as part of these reforms.

The campaign will culminate with the WBF taking these arguments directly to the doors of the UK Government on Tuesday 5th September 2023, when the WBF is hosting a conference with industry leaders, minsters, policy makers and other government officials to further debate and solidify the arguments for biopesticide regulatory reform with the people in a position to make these changes.

Dr Minshad Ansari, Founder and Chairman of the WBF, commented, “This conference could mark a significant moment in our industry’s history, as a competent authority finally listens to the needs of the bioprotection sector. This is the opportunity that we have been waiting for, for over 25 years, and we cannot afford to let it pass without doing everything we can to explain the rationale and urgent requirement for regulatory reform, to those people who can finally make these things happen.”

Industry attendance at the conference on 5th September 2023, which will take place in the highly prestigious Jubilee Room at the Palace of Westminster in London, UK, is limited to 40 members of the WBF. Those members wishing to partake in the event should email wbf@worldbioprotectionforum.com to express their interest as soon as possible, and to secure their place.

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