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Evidence-based Transformation in Pesticide Governance

Applicant Ingold Karin
Number 193762
Funding scheme Sinergia
Research institution Institut für Politikwissenschaft Universität Bern
Institution of higher education University of Berne - BE
Main discipline Interdisciplinary
Start/End 01.01.2021 - 31.12.2024
Approved amount 3'096'295.00
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All Disciplines (3)

Other disciplines of Environmental Sciences
Political science

Keywords (6)

Environmental and health exposure assessment; Trans-disciplinarity; Pesticide risk; Swiss agriculture; Policy studies; Science integration

Lay Summary (German)

Macht Evidenz den Unterschied? Was weiss die Wissenschaft, aber auch die Bauern, die Politiker, und die grosse Öffentlichkeit über Pestizide und ihren Einfluss auf landwirtschaftliche Produktivität, Umwelt und Gesundheit? Dieser Frage geht das inter- und transdisziplinäre Forschungsprojekt nach.
Lay summary
Dieses Projekt interessiert sich für Pestizide in der Landwirtschaft. Es ist interdisziplinär und beleuchtet dieses Thema aus der Sicht der Gesundheits- und Umweltwissenschaften, der Politik- und Sozialwissenschaften, der Agronomie und der Entscheidungsanalyse. Ziel ist es, systematische die gesammelte Evidenz zum Thema Pestizide in der Landwirtschaft über die letzten hundert Jahre zu analysieren. Evidenz wird nicht nur in der Wissenschaft, sondern auch in der breiten Öffentlichkeit, den Medien, der Politik, und nicht zuletzt der landwirtschaftlichen Praxis und der chemischen Industrie generiert und verbreitet. Es interessiert uns nachfolgend, welche Art von Evidenz bei den Entscheidungsträgern, den Landwirten und der breiten Bevölkerung einen Unterschied machen, und allenfalls ihre Präferenzen (in Bezug auf Politik, Anbaupraktiken, oder Konsumverhalten) verändern könnten.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 03.11.2020

Responsible applicant and co-applicants


Project partner

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
177506 SAPALDIA 5 - Cohort on Healthy Aging 01.04.2018 Cohort Studies Large
172433 Reconciling innovative farming practices and networks to enable sustainable development of smart Swiss farming systems 01.01.2018 NRP 73 Sustainable Economy


To simultaneously achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda in areas such as Biodiversity Conservation, Food Production and Consumption, a fundamental transformation in land use and agricultural production seems indispensable. Different interests, needs, and priorities render this task a real challenge. So the general question arises: how can we achieve successful sustainable transformation in areas of societal, economic, and environmental trade-offs?To answer this question, we focus on pesticide use in agriculture in Switzerland; a cross-cutting theme where interests related to agricultural production are challenged by human and environmental health concerns. By now, a large body of scientific literature exists about pesticide exposure and effects for humans and the environment. There also exist national and international policies and practices in how to reduce risks related to pesticide use, but still the negative externalities cannot be fully internalized yet.In this research, we follow the basic assumption that systematic, targeted, and timely evidence and information about pesticide exposure and risks, about alternative farm practices and policies has an impact on peoples’ attitudes towards pesticide use and regulation. This is not a naïve assumption that (any type of) information can bring sustainable transformation. Previous research indicates that information and evidence indeed impacts peoples’ attitudes and preferences, but this is contingent on the type, timing, and novelty of the information, on the urgency of action needed, and the degree of affectedness of people. In pesticide-related research, there exists no systematic inventory of evidence sources and pathways, and no test what type of evidence might impact different stakeholders’ preferences. For the first time, we systematically study the role of different types of evidence on diverse types of actors involved in Swiss agriculture with regard to their attitudes towards pesticide use and regulation. To assess the potential for sustainable transformation, alternative policies and practices in Swiss agriculture, we conduct inter- and transdisciplinary research in five different workpackages (WP) and integrate expertise from environmental science and chemistry, agricultural economics, health sciences, decision-analysis, and social and political sciences. We first systematically identify different sources and types of evidence (from natural, social and health sciences, and economics; about agricultural practices, specific plant protection products, and policies) and how they (un)successfully entered different arenas (academia, media, farming, and politics) in the past. We also control for other context factors and external events that might have impacted change in how pesticides were used and regulated (WP2). In parallel, and through an epidemiological study of pesticide exposure in cohorts of farming and rural non-faming families, levels of pesticide exposure and associated health effects are assessed (WP3). From systematic evidence and new data obtained in WP2 and WP3, different information treatments (human- and ecotoxicology of selected substances; effectiveness of selected farm practices and policies) are designed and provided to different selected stakeholder groups and survey partners (WP4): farmers and the rural population, political elite, and selected stakeholders along agricultural production and food value chains. For example, participants of the epidemiological study (WP3) will be confronted with their pesticide exposure level for subsequently determining whether this personalized evidence can trigger behavior change. WP1 and WP5 embrace the whole project, and all researchers will jointly develop an interdisciplinary framework of science integration and engage in transdisciplinary methods of stakeholder involvement. The ultimate objective is to assess the potential for sustainable transformation in Swiss agriculture in order to internalize negative externalities that stem from pesticide use. This is achieved through the ongoing synthesis procedure and via three concrete research objectives: 1. Targeted evidence: evidence pathways and what type of evidence triggers selected stakeholders attitudes; 2. Reduction of sectoral trade-offs: a sound set of within- and across-sectoral and feasible policy and management options in pesticide regulation and practices, identified in focus groups, through modelling and multi-criteria decision-analysis; 3. Assessment of innovation potential: the potential for risk-minimized pesticide use strategies in future Swiss agriculture and under different scenarios.