The use of pesticides in the Swedish Forestry sector
The goal of this solution was to find a non-chemical protection against insects that is acceptable economically as well as environmentally by all stakeholders involved in the forestry sector in Sweden.
Target population and setting
The target population of this solution consisted of workers in the Swedish Forestry sector, who worked with damaging pesticides (chemicals). These chemicals are generally prophylactic insecticides, like synthetic pyrethroids and neonicotinoids, and were used to prevent insects from eating the bark of young tree seedlings. They have strong effects on a wide range of insects, and they have a damaging effect on workers’ health. These chemicals are not clearly classified as carcinogens, but they are related to severe adverse health outcomes including running eyes and noses, respiratory problems, skin problems and allergies. Although these pesticides are used worldwide, the problem in Sweden was that most of the work was seasonal, i.e., summer season, and that workers would handle the pre-treated tree seedlings without their protective clothing, because of the high temperatures during summer season.
- Identification of the problem with pesticides in regeneration (1992). This is when the issue of insecticide use first became part of the societal calendar in Sweden.
- Seminar with inventers and researchers to describe the problem (1993). After the seminar, researchers developed over 50 protection devices, which were tested over the years. However, only a few of those devices proved potentially useful, and were not convincing in their results. The main problem was that the insects were quite resilient, while the tree seedlings were not. So an aggressive solution to the insects would also kill the tree seedlings.
- In order to speed up the process to find a more sustainable and effective solution, the Committee for Seedling Protection was founded (1998). All relevant stakeholders to the problem of insecticides and tree seedlings in Sweden became a member of the committee and tasks were divided. For example, Skogforsk (the Forestry Research Institute) took on the administrative and financial tasks, and some research tasks. The University of Agricultural Sciences did most of the research and came up with the final solution to the problem. Other stakeholders, such as the Swedish Forest Agency and forest companies verified that the committee stayed on track and assisted the search for a solution in any way possible. All of the stakeholders are pictures in the picture below.
- The key to finding the solution together was that from day one, all stakeholders had the same goal in mind: to find a solution for the use of insecticides in the Swedish Forestry sector. Other parties who want to enter a similar process to find a solution for chemical use in the forestry sector could also include environmental stakeholders, such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). This project did not include the FSC or other environmental stakeholders, as the other stakeholders took on this responsibility and the FSC was not present in Sweden at the time.
- The solution: in 2001, a solution was found. The plan was to put a certain kind of water-based glue on the stems of the seedlings, and then spray a very fine sand on the glue. This works as the insects do not like to get sand in their mouths, and therefore stay away from the seedlings. In 2002, the solution was patented.
- In order to make this solution profitable and available on a large scale, a machine was developed to deliver the glue and sand. This machine, the Conniflex, was put on the market in 2009, and it has been increasingly used over the period 2010-2015. The number of affected seedlings keeps decreasing year after year, and as well as the use of insecticides. An important role in this phase of the project was that from the FSC, which increased the pressure on companies to reduce the use of chemicals in forestry and find alternative solutions.
At the start of the Committee (1998), it was estimated that the annual budget for this project was circa 320 000 euros. The project would run during a period of five years. Most of the funding was raised by arranging for an agreement with all forest nurseries to pay 0.03 eurocent per insecticide-treated seedling. As it took much longer to find a solution to the problem than first anticipated, the contract with the forest nurseries had to be renewed several times. The final contracts were written for the period of 2010-2014. The total costs are estimated at circa 6 million Euros since the start of the project.
- To develop solutions comparable to the solution described here, it is essential to identify the problem and the stakeholders, and to find agreement with all the stakeholders about what the problem is.
- Funding for these projects can be quite a challenge, but creative solutions are available. This project used several of those solutions, such as a price per unit, which is generally attractive because of the low rate for companies, and combining several sources of funding, i.e., research funds, governmental funds and company funds.
- The role of stakeholders and their influence in the societal and political context can be used to lobby for your solution.