Giving the Amos Memorial Lecture at East Malling Research in Kent earlier this month, the University of Warwick lecturer said a chemical pesticide took 10 years and £300m to launch, compared with £5m for a biopesticide, as the latter relies on natural organisms such as fungi. He added that even companies using consultants to guide them through the registration process often foundered.
"Regulators will often stop the clock three or so days before a deadline and ask more questions," he said. "Some of those questions are completely inappropriate for bioproducts. We need to overcome that problem."
Duplication caused by separate regulators in each EU state compounded the problem, he claimed. "In an ideal world there would be one agency in the EU to concentrate expertise, not 27."
He added: "This is a particular problem for minor crops, which encompass almost all vegetables. Biopesticides are niche products, typically developed by smaller firms - part of a university science park, perhaps, with people at PhD level. They are very good scientists but have next to no knowledge of the regulatory system or how to get approvals and a product to market."