Evaluating the impact of pesticide usage An EU-funded project looked at the development of a methodological framework for achieving more sustainable use of pesticides in European agriculture. Climate Change and Environment © Thinkstock For many years, farmers have used pesticides to protect plants from pathogens, insects, nematodes and weeds. The initial aim was to ensure a viable yield and to improve the quality of the food produced. However, excessive use of pesticides has lead to pest resistance and has had a negative impact on the environment and the health of farmers and consumers. 'Theoretical developments and empirical measurement of the external costs of pesticides' (TEAMPEST) investigated this worrying issue and aimed to provide sustainable solutions. The project team used a combination of traditional theoretical methodologies and recent advancements. They then tested the developed theoretical models and policy tools in a selection of EU countries. A dual farm model formed the basis for assessing the impact of pesticides on agricultural yield and productivity. The assessment showed that while using pesticides was beneficial for farm production, there was an overall deceleration in yield increase due to a drop in farmer productivity. This resulted from impaired health caused by pesticide use. The project evaluated the external costs of pesticides on consumers through choice experiments and their willingness to pay for products with different levels of pesticide residues. Labelling of products with production condition details was considered a necessary step for consumers to make their own choices. The project also looked into reducing pesticide usage to a socially optimal level by developing various tax and levy systems, and policies. These were designed to target different types of pesticides and environmental impacts. The study revealed that no single tax or levy system can lead to a substantial reduction in pesticide use. The demand for organic products is likely to grow significantly within the EU in coming years. The results obtained in the project were used to generate a policy framework. This may serve as a benchmark for future EU policy schemes aimed at achieving sustainable pesticide use and management. In addition, the results may guide future decisions on the level of taxation required.