Mandatory integrated pest management in the European Union: experimental insights on consumers’ reactions

Abstract

A realistic experiment with 189 French consumers was conducted to analyse consumers’ reaction to the transition towards integrated pest management (IPM) as the standard in European farming. Results indicate high substitutability between IPM and organic tomatoes. It suggests that IPM sales will benefit from the withdrawal of conventional products from the market only if there is a significant reduction in the price of IPM products as compared to organic ones and/or an important increase in the shelf space dedicated to IPM products. While information on IPM guidelines increases IPM products purchases, providing extra information on residue levels in IPM tomatoes has no further impact on consumers’ choices in this experiment.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Notes

  1. 1.

    The shelf space corresponds to the amount of space for one product in a store.

  2. 2.

    The design can be interpreted as a modified voluntary contribution mechanism. In the traditional voluntary contribution mechanism, each member of a group of potential beneficiaries of the public good decides simultaneously on a portion of its initial endowment to contribute to a group account. Here, the contributions to the public good do not benefit directly to the group but are transferred over time to a future group (intertemporal transfers). Moreover, we combine the voluntary contribution mechanism with supply and demand conditions in the market for a private good. Here, the “public good”, provided thanks to individual contributions, is a reduction in the price of sustainable products for next generations.

  3. 3.

    In the recruitment email, respondents were asked which vegetables they were used to buy at this period of the year (autumn) in a list of ten vegetables.

  4. 4.

    An alternative could have been to use the mixed logit model, which also does not impose IIA. The mixed logit also has the advantage not to require an identical and independent distribution of error terms across individuals and alternatives. It allows estimating standard deviations of mean parameters and therefore heterogeneity in the preferences for a particular attribute. The MNP is nevertheless preferred because the estimation is less time-consuming than the mixed logit. Moreover, the MNP assumes that the errors are distributed as multivariate normal. Assuming normality may be more convenient or not worse than choosing a specific distribution as required in the mixed logit (Train 2009).

  5. 5.

    While price and shelf space are attributes of the alternatives defined in the experimental design, the values of the information attributes are not fixed prior to the experiment since they depend on whether the individuals have requested information about a specific alternative (for rounds 1 to 5) or not. Nevertheless, they remain alternative-specific attributes.

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Acknowledgments

The survey on which this paper is based was funded by the IPTS, JRC-European Commission in the context of the project “Consumers’ willingness to pay for Integrated Production: experimental design and data collection”, PO 153580. However, the views expressed are purely those of the authors and may not, in any circumstances, be regarded as stating an official position of the European Commission. Marianne Lefebvre acknowledges funding from Agropolis Fondation and the French National Research Agency (program “Investissements d’avenir” ANR-10-LABX-0001-01, Project “CAP-eye”). The authors would like to thank the partners of the FP7-PURE project for supporting the initial idea. We would especially like to thank Christine Poncet (INRA) for contributing to the elaboration of the information on the different types of tomatoes disclosed to participants. We are also grateful to the two anonymous referees for their constructive input.

Author contributions

M. Lefebvre, S.R.H. Langrell and S. Gomez-y-Paloma formulated the original question. The experiment was designed by E. Ginon, S. Marette and A. Sutan with the help of M. Lefebvre and G. Mateu and programmed by G. Mateu in z-Tree. The sessions were organized by C. Biguzzi with the help of E. Ginon, G. Mateu, A. Sutan and H. Saysithideth. M. Lefebvre performed data analysis and wrote the first version of the manuscript. All authors provided feedback on previous versions of the manuscript. M. Lefebvre was responsible for overall coordination.

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Correspondence to M. Lefebvre.

Appendix 1. Instructions (translation from French version)

Appendix 1. Instructions (translation from French version)

You are participating in an experiment to analyse consumers’ preferences towards certain types of products. The sum of 20 € which was given to you upon arrival is yours. You can use it as you wish during the experiment, specifically to buy the products that are available for sale.

To ensure anonymity, you are identified by a code. All information collected about your decisions will be confidential.

During the experiment, you are asked not to communicate with other participants. If you have a question, please speak directly to the lab manager.

Note that you do not have to eat any product during this experience.

In this experiment, you will have the opportunity to make purchases of products. You will have several opportunities to purchase products. Each opportunity will be called a “round”.

Each round takes place in the same way: you will be given information on several products for sale (price, and other characteristic(s)).

The following procedure will be repeated for each round:

  1. Step 1:

    Product information (price, other information)

  2. Step 2:

    Desire to purchase one of the products

Reading some additional associated pieces of information is optional. You are free to read if you want by clicking on the optional buttons.

Note: For each round, you can choose only one product among those proposed.

Once all rounds have been completed, one of them will be drawn at random. Buyers of this round will each receive the product purchased and will pay the market price. For all other rounds, buyers will not receive the product and will not have to make any payments.

Once all rounds are completed, you will have to answer a short questionnaire.

[only for the treatment “price endogeneity mechanism”]: Through your decisions, you can influence the price of the tomatoes for the consumers who will take part in the following experimental sessions: the more consumers buy organic or integrated tomatoes, the lower their prices in the following experimental sessions.

Information visible on the computer screen

Information available to participants upon request when clicking on “More information on the production system: conventional”

Crop protection has a key role in agriculture since it protects crops from weeds, diseases and pest which are major causes of yield losses. Many crop protection methods exist (chemical pesticides, choice of crop varieties, soil management, use of beneficial insects…) and are used according to the crop protection strategy chosen by the farmer.

In conventional farming, chemical pesticides are used systematically and routinely for crop protection. It is the kind of crop protection which dominated the twentieth century and which accounts for most farming today.

Tomatoes from conventional farming receive on average 30–35 spraying during the growing season (average for soil-less tomatoes, which represent most of tomatoes production in conventional agriculture)

Information available to participants upon request when clicking on “More information on the production system: integrated”

Crop protection has a key role in agriculture since it protects crops from weeds, diseases and pest which are major causes of yield losses. Many crop protection methods exist (chemical pesticides, choice of crop varieties, soil management, use of beneficial insects…) and are used according to the crop protection strategy chosen by the farmer.

Integrated pest management can be considered as a third way between conventional and organic crop protection strategies: the use of chemical pesticides is not prohibited, but limited, thanks to a more efficient and targeted spraying and to the use of other methods (physical protection, organic protection, cultural practices …).

Many tomatoes are produced nowadays with integrated pest management but the information is rarely disclosed in supermarkets.

Spraying of tomatoes is reduced to less than five per growing season with integrated pest management. This is less than in conventional farming but more than in organic (average for soil-less tomatoes, which represent a large majority of the tomatoes produced with integrated pest management).

Information available to participants upon request when clicking on “More information on the production system: organic”

Crop protection has a key role in agriculture since it protects crops from weeds, diseases and pest which are major causes of yield losses. Many crop protection methods exist (chemical pesticides, choice of crop varieties, soil management, use of beneficial insects…) and are used according to the crop protection strategy chosen by the farmer.

The specifications for organic farming totally prohibit the use of chemical pesticides. All organic tomatoes are soil-grown and with no chemical pesticides, contrarily to crop protection strategies used in conventional farming and integrated pest management.

Information available to participants upon request when clicking on “More information on the characteristics of the final product: conventional”

Pesticides tend to stay in fruits and vegetables, even after washing or peeling them. In order to protect consumers’ health and promote good practices in farming, maximum residue levels have been set legally. It aims at avoiding that consumers eat more than the acceptable daily intake of the active substance. Fruits and vegetables with residue levels beyond this limit cannot be sold.

All conventional tomatoes contain less pesticide residues than the maximal limit imposed by regulation.

Information available to participants upon request when clicking on “More information on the characteristics of the final product: integrated”

Pesticides tend to stay in fruits and vegetables, even after washing or peeling them. In order to protect consumers’ health and promote good practices in farming, maximum residue levels have been set legally. It aims at avoiding that consumers eat more than the acceptable daily intake of the active substance. Fruits and vegetables with residue levels beyond this limit cannot be sold.

Tomatoes produced according to integrated pest management contain less pesticide residues than the maximal limit imposed by regulation, and, in average, ten times less pesticides residues than what is observed in tomatoes from conventional production system.

Information available to participants upon request when clicking on “More information on the characteristics of the final product: organic”

Pesticides tend to stay in fruits and vegetables, even after washing or peeling them. In order to protect consumers’ health and promote good practices in farming, maximum residue levels have been set legally. It aims at avoiding that consumers eat more than the acceptable daily intake of the active substance. Fruits and vegetables with residue levels beyond this limit cannot be sold.

In chemical pesticides not being authorized in organic farming, organic tomatoes can be considered as residue-free compare to conventional and IPM tomatoes.

However, some studies have revealed that residues can be found in organic tomatoes, since pesticides can have been used in neighbour fields or in the past in the same field.

Information disclosed to all participants between rounds 6 and 7

The European Union has decided that from 2014, all farmers will have to use integrated pest management to protect their crops against pests and diseases. Crop protection strategy as currently used in conventional production system will therefore be prohibited from 2014. Since farmers are anticipating this change, we can already observe that the share of conventional tomatoes in total production is diminishing. There is now only one type of conventional tomatoes available, plus one type of IPM and one type of organic tomatoes.

Information disclosed to all participants between rounds 8 and 9

Crop protection strategies used in conventional production system will be forbidden starting from 2014. From now, only IPM and organic tomatoes are available.

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Lefebvre, M., Biguzzi, C., Ginon, E. et al. Mandatory integrated pest management in the European Union: experimental insights on consumers’ reactions. Rev Agric Food Environ Stud 98, 25–54 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41130-017-0041-x

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Keywords

  • Integrated pest management
  • Organic
  • Tomatoes
  • Sustainable use of pesticides directive
  • Multinomial probit
  • Open-ended choice experiment

JEL classification

  • C91
  • D12
  • Q13
  • Q18