Scientists who search for new pesticides for use in humanity’s battle of the bugs and other threats to the food supply have been learning lessons from Mother Nature, according to a new analysis. It concludes that more than two out of every three new pesticide active ingredients approved in recent years had roots in natural substances produced in plants or animals. The article appears in ACS’ Journal of Natural Products.
Charles L. Cantrell and colleagues point out that there have been many analyses of the impact of natural products — substances produced by living plants, animals and other organisms — on the production of pesticides. None, however, has ever looked at the impact of natural products and natural product-based pesticides in fostering new active ingredients (NAIs) in pesticides on the U.S. market, based on NAI registrations with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The scientists filled that information gap with results that they say defy conventional wisdom that natural products may not be the best sources for NAIs. The analysis found that between 1997 and 2010, more natural products were registered as NAIs for conventional pesticides and biopesticides than any other type of ingredient. The authors report that when biological ingredients and natural products recreated in labs are included, more than 69 percent of all NAIs registered in that time frame have natural origins. The authors acknowledge funding from the U.S. Department of Defense through the Armed Forces Pest Management Board.