A 2015 survey conducted by Consumer Reports revealed that pesticide exposure is a concern for 85 percent of Americans. Justifiably, consumer anxieties are not limited to the safety of the fruits, grains and vegetables on the family dinner table. The public is equally focused on the chemical products used to enhance plant and turf growth or control disease and pests on playgrounds, golf courses and the landscaped green spaces and grounds surrounding homes, communities and timeshare resorts. A 2015 survey conducted by Consumer Reports revealed that pesticide exposure is a concern for 85 percent of Americans. Justifiably, consumer anxieties are not limited to the safety of the fruits, grains and vegetables on the family dinner table. The public is equally focused on the chemical products used to enhance plant and turf growth or control disease and pests on playgrounds, golf courses and the landscaped green spaces and grounds surrounding homes, communities and resorts.
Many hotels and vacation properties invest considerable effort in creating lush expanses of vibrant turf that inspire vacation owners and guests to run barefoot, dive for frisbees and enjoy their children tumbling and cartwheeling on the soft grass. Resort facilities take pride in breathtaking ornamentals that wave in the breeze and turn the properties into garden oasis where neither adults nor children can resist the urge to stop and smell the roses. But in a world where long-accepted environmental best practices have come under fire, how do vacation ownership resorts, homeowners associations, property managers and others who bear responsibility for facilities maintenance make the right decisions about safe chemical use?
Enter the Biological Products Industry Alliance (BPIA). Founded more than fifteen years ago, the BPIA is a non-profit alliance dedicated to creating awareness of biopesticides as effective products. The goals of the alliance include being the leading source of reliable information for biopesticides while improving product stewardship, performance and factual promotion. As an educational and advocacy association, the Biological Products Industry Alliance helps unite voices from the agriculture and horticulture industries with those of consumers and public health agencies.
What Makes Biopesticides a Safer Alternative?
Given that biopesticides are still pesticides, the obvious question often is, “What makes biopesticides different from other chemicals in use to control pests or improve plant growth?”
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines biopesticides as “Certain types of pesticides derived from such natural materials as animals, plants, bacteria and certain minerals.” Categorized as biochemical pesticides and microbial pesticides, such products help control pests through non-toxic mechanisms.
Targeted to address a specific problem, biopesticides have a material, biological or natural effect on a pest. Because the action is targeted, only the identified pest is at risk by exposure to the biopesticide. While a biopesticide might take aim at the reproductive process of a specific insect, it would have no effect, whatsoever, on the individual applying the product or the hotel and resort guests present in the same area. Literally, a biopesticide can be applied to a strawberry plant, and people could then immediately turn around and safely and confidently pick and eat strawberries from that same plant.
BPIA: Association Growth on the Fast Track
First established in Texas by five member companies seeking a unified voice in the biopesticide industry, the BPIA has in the past been led by agronomists. Today, the Executive Director of the Biological Products Industry Alliance, Keith Jones, is a trade association attorney. His professional background includes having been General Counsel and Director of Professionalism for the American Academy of Actuaries, General Counsel for the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) and General Counsel for the Philadelphia Water Department. He acknowledges that having been part of large associations, he understands how they work.
When he speaks about the association’s message and its mission, Keith’s enthusiasm overflows, his words come fast and then faster. This enthusiasm, it seems, is contagious.
The Biological Products Industry Alliance had roughly 75 member companies at the time Keith assumed leadership in August of 2015. Currently growing its membership at the remarkable pace of one new member per week, BPIA now has more than 120 members, and this member count will no doubt be higher by the time this magazine goes to press.
Comprised of approximately 20 percent large companies, 20 percent midsize companies and 60 percent small companies, the diversity of the alliance membership mirrors that of the industry itself. Big brands, including BASF, DuPont, Bayer CropScience, Syngenta and Monsanto are members, but so are sole proprietors and small entrepreneurial companies with only a few employees. To ensure that every voice is equally heard, all members are eligible to vote on the equitable basis of one member/one vote on the organization’s board members, policies, positions or any issues brought before the membership by the board.
Small and large companies also are equally represented on BPIA’s committees, organized to bring together the resources and the focus necessary to achieve the organization’s various objectives. Committee members meet with regulators at the US EPA, California DPR and Canada’s PMRA. Individual members officially represent BPIA on the Pesticide Registration Improvement Renewal (PRIA) coalition and EPA’s Pesticide Program Dialogue Committee (PPDC).
BPIA committee members and individual representatives utilize opportunities to interact with regulators to
- Raise and resolve issues
- Comment constructively on emerging policies and regulations, and
- earn how its member registrants can improve their submissions.
Along with relocating its offices to Oakton, Virginia, to provide easier access to legislators, the Biological Products Industry Alliance furthered its objective to be the single voice for the entire biological products industry with a name change. Formerly the BioPesticide Industry Alliance, the organization announced its new name this year.
“Changing our name was an important next step toward being more inclusive of a broader range of science-based biological products that create value in North America and around the world,” said Rick Melnick, Chair of the BPIA Board of Directors and Global Brand Manager for Valent BioSciences Corporation.
As Executive Director, Keith Jones, pointed out, “We all need to be aware of the impact of the products we use. Biologicals are not a silver bullet in and of themselves. But they are part of what we call integrated pest management (IPM) and are intended to be used in conjunction with other types of products for responsibly reducing the overall pesticide load.”
You can learn more about the initiatives and opportunities of the Biological Products Industry Alliance on the BIPA website www.bpia.org. You can also search the organization’s extensive online databases to guide you in product selection and use.