The Rise and Struggle of the Biopesticide Industry

Serious industrial developments with biopesticides started in the 1960-1970s with products based on Bt. Large agrichemical companies such as Sandoz and Solvay started to produce products and the first commercial biopesticides were registered and launched on the market in the USA and in Europe in the early 1960s.

The research on insect pathogens has grown extensively the last four decades and the literature on insect pathogens and on their potential as microbial control agents is vast. During this period, many companies have employed activities with biopesticides and numerous products have been developed, registered, and introduced on the market. The use of biopesticides is constantly increasing. However, their overall use is merely a few percent of the total worldwide use of plant protection products. Many products have not been successful, and numerous companies have failed. According to Lisansky (CPL 2006) over four hundred companies have been active at different times with commercialization of microbial pesticides, and the majority of these companies has left the field of biopesticides. Gelernter (2005) provided an overview of these commercial developments within the biopesticide industry from 1950 to 2005. The challenges that entrepreneurs face when they try to develop and commercialize microbial pest control products have been outlined by many authors working in the biopesticide industry (Jaronski 1986; Cross and Polonenko 1996; Marrone 1999; Van der Pas et al. 2000; Warrior 2000; Benuzzi 2004; Georgis 2002; Krause et al. 2006). The reasons for failure have been reported many times and the dominant issues are: variable quality and efficacy of biocontrol products, their costs compared to their efficacy, competition with chemicals, registration, overestimation of the market size, underestimation of the assumption that market adoption will be easy, underestimation of the total required budget and the time to market, and the often less than optimal collaboration between academic scientists and the product developers in the industry.

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