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Biopesticides are derived from natural materials like animals, plants, bacteria, and certain minerals. For example, garlic, mint, neem, papaya and baking soda all have pesticidal applications and are considered biopesticides. Compared to conventional chemical pesticides Bio-pesticides are less harmful because they generally have specific target pests and are therefore less likely to affect other beneficial insects, birds and mammals. They have generally lower toxicity levels, decompose quickly and thus do not cause the kind of environmental problems associated with chemical pesticides. Used as part of Integrated Pest Management programs (for example with biofungicides or biological control of insects by using their natural enemies to feed on them ) biopesticides can greatly reduce the use of conventional pesticides without compromising crop yields. Marcus Meadows-Smith, CEO of AgraQuest, a leading US-based company specialising in researching low-chem - or biological - agricultural products and their developmet, believes it is not right for farmers to have to compromise on yield and profitability as older, more toxic pesticides are getting banned, leaving gaps in their portfolios.

He says biopesticides now account for $1 billion (£638.5 million) of the global $40bn agrochemical market and over the next 10 years the biopesticides, or low-chem, market is expected to grow to $10bn.

And that could be good news for farmers, the quality of their land, and for health and price conscious consumers.

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Ali Withers is an experienced, qualified journalist specialising in a variety of consumer issues including organic food, its production and use of low-chem biop-esticides, bio-fungicides and yield enhancers for sustainable farming.. A useful web resource she has found is for the US-based low-chem agricultural products R & D company AgraQuest http://www.agraquest.com/