member center

Trend Three: Regulation and Environment

Editor’s Note: This article is the third in a series of four trend summaries from Vision 2020, an initiative pioneered by Bayer and NPMA to help guide and shape the future of the pest management industry. The multi-year initiative will identify future trends and equip the industry to enhance its value to society in the midst of emerging societal, economic, technological and regulatory issues. The following focuses on emerging trends and implications in the area of science and technology.

VISION 2020 — Future trends and implications for the pest management industry

Chapter 3: Regulation & Environment

The signs are everywhere. In front yards, hotel rooms and businesses, signs beckon people to recycle, share a ride, conserve water or stop polluting, plus countless other actions aimed at protecting the environment and our natural resources. While no one can predict the future with any specificity, few question the fact that overall public awareness of environmental issues-and intense regulatory scrutiny of pest control-will continue to grow in the years ahead.

The Vision 2020 participants identified four key future trends and their implications relative to regulation and the environment, as follows:

Greater public understanding of exposure.Who hasn’t read headlines about the dangers of exposure to allergens associated with peanuts, cockroaches or fire ants? Thanks to an increasingly health-conscious society and an ever-expanding flood of health-related information in news and online, consumers are more aware than ever of the potential effects of exposure to a full range of elements. Consumers are likely to become even more attuned to these issues in the years ahead, as the push to keep people healthy continues.

Implications: Pest management professionals (PMPs) should play a lead role in educating consumers about the role that pests play in public health and the importance of professional pest management in protecting the health of individuals, families and communities. At the same time, PMPs must also be more transparent about the potential health effects, if any, related to the exposure to pest control solutions.

Growing concerns over water and air. Just as experts are concerned about producing enough food to feed a growing world population, they’re also concerned about having enough water to meet residential and commercial needs in the future. These same experts also express concern about the reduction in air quality, particularly in densely packed urban areas. Collectively, these concerns are likely to spark additional regulatory scrutiny and, worse case, more restrictions aimed at protecting both the quality and quantity of our natural resources.

Implications: The bugs aren’t going anywhere, so people and businesses will continue to need a full measure of professional pest management. However, given the potential for greater concern and scrutiny over environmental issues, PMPs have a huge opportunity to introduce “softer,” more sustainable solutions to pest management.

Local versus national regulations. The idea that “all politics is local” has never been more true than it is today. Due to perpetual gridlock in our nation’s capital and the challenges of reaching national consensus on a range of legislative issues, more and more states and municipalities are opting to pass their own laws that are right for their residents. In addition, more and more special interest groups, including NGOs, are finding it easier to introduce new legislation at the state or municipal level rather than at the federal level. This trend is likely to accelerate in the years ahead, unless the winds of bi-partisanship change were to sweep through Washington, D.C.

Implications: This trend provides pesticide critics with more avenues to pursue in opposing the use of certain products or application techniques. In the years ahead, it will be critical for the professional pest management industry to build strong advocacy networks at the federal, state and local level-especially online, given that many “anti” campaigns are waged digitally. Having an army of respected, vocal advocates in all the right places will help protect the industry’s best interests in the increasingly decentralized regulatory environment. On the flip side of the coin, this trend also represents more platforms to engage and educate policy makers and members of the public about the important role pest management plays in public health and about the industry’s evolution from tool-based to knowledge-based solutions.

Climate change and population shifts. Most (but not all) scientists agree that climate change is real and will have an impact on pest management from several perspectives. As parts of the country become warmer or cooler, wetter or drier, pest populations may shift accordingly, causing pests to enter or exit the scene. This, in combination with population growth and the emergence of mega-cites, is likely to aggravate existing health issues (i.e., allergies) or usher in new ones (i.e., new vector-borne diseases).

Implication: While some of these issues will be years in the making, PMPs need to be ready for the emergence of new pests to their regions. In addition, with every changing condition comes a terrific opportunity to become “the expert” in educating residential and commercial customers and the changing world of professional pest management.