Hurdles and Constraints

The failure of many of these initiatives with biopesticides has been a serious problem. Vast sums of money have been spent and were largely wasted. This still occurs today. As a result, the development of biological and sustainable plant protection products is hardly accomplished. The demand for these kinds of products is rising in our societies, but the potential that microorganisms offer to control pests is not met. Lessons should be learned from this history with the commercialization of biopesticides. In the scientific literature, many authors report research topics related to the development and commercialization of a microbial control agent. Usually, this refers to biological and technical subjects, and sometimes to regulatory aspects. Few authors addressed market and commercial aspects, and even fewer focussed on economic considerations. There is no extensive treatment of the entire developmental process in the literature. Several authors have observed too that, despite abundant research on microbial pest control agents, commercialization of products has only been accomplished in a limited number of cases (Cross and Polonenko 1996; Fravel 1999; Stewart 2001; Hallett 2005; CPL 2007; Droby et al. 2009).

A statement of Dent (1997) emphasizes the need for a systematic approach to efficiently develop new biological products: "Microbial insecticide research is usually funded piecemeal, largely by the public sector, and rarely involves multi-disciplinary teams that develop a microbial insecticide from start to finish. The general knowledge base in microbial insecticides is built up in a haphazard way, through uncoordinated efforts of many scientists all pursuing their own individual research objectives and interests. This contrasts markedly with the more focussed factory-like screening and development process which characterizes agrochemi-cal R & D that produces new chemical insecticides." Later, other researchers have expressed similar self-criticism with regard to their attitude towards research on bio-control agents and are calling upon colleagues to maximize efforts to attaining more commercial successes (Fravel 1999; Stewart 2001). Scientists again recognized the lack of direction in their research approaches when it relates to biopesticide development. Ash (2009) stated that "researchers should also be encouraged to abandon referring to their "pet pathogen" as a bioherbicide candidate. Long after they have failed to demonstrate economic and biological rationale for the production of a bioherbicide the researcher continues to research and publish on the system they have studied for so long". Not only in bioherbicides is the phenomena of "pet pathogens" noticeable, and resources could be spent more efficiently when the development of a biopesticide is the goal.

At the same time, companies contemplating the development of a microbial pest control product made and still make serious mistakes in their assumptions on their knowledge and skills, the market potential and many other aspects of commercialization of these products (Gelernter 2005; CPL 2006). Many potential products remain on the shelf of the academic scientists because of the enormous challenge of developing it into a successful product. Still today, I see research conducted in the way Dent (1997) described more then 10 years ago. On the other hand, I also see more and more public and private research collaborating with the goal to develop microbial products from the onset of a project. Small biocontrol companies need to adopt appropriate aspects of the approach of large agrochemical R & D companies to enhance their product development. Both academic scientists and biopesticide developers in industry need to collaborate earlier in a project and should be more focussed on the entire process of product development and commercialization. With a well-coordinated research between academics and industry, and a clear focus on the final product and market, more biopesticides are likely to reach the market and become successful.

Registration is often cited as the main hurdle in the commercialization of microbial pest control products. It is a long and expensive procedure. Moreover, many dossier requirements do not address the specific nature of these products appropriately which makes registration even more difficult. Regulatory innovation and harmonization are required at EU level and at national level to remedy this situation (Chandler et al. 2008). Concerning registration worldwide, the OECD's Pesticide Programme strives to facilitate and improve registration procedures of crop protection products in member countries by harmonization (Sigman 2005). The OECD Biopesticide Steering Group is working on several issues related to data requirements for microbials (Meeussen 2007).

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