Series No. 7
Approach in Environmental Management
ISSUES AND FUTURE ACTIONS
Issues and concerns about the application and use of phytotechnologies range
from effects on the environment and human health to impacts on social and economic
conditions. Some of these issues arise specifically from the nature of technology,
while others, such as resource exploitation, are part of the ongoing dilemma
of population growth and the impact of human activities in relation to sustainable
Some key questions related to the environmental, health and safety aspects
of phytotechnology applications are:
||How can natural systems be used effectively to improve environmental
||How can more ecologically sound technologies such as phytotechnologies
be used incomplementary ways to enhance the functioning and effectiveness
of natural systems?
||How can biodiversity be protected?
||Will genetically altered plants upset the balance of natural ecosystems?
||Are current regulations adequate?
With respect to socio-economic issues key questions are:
||How can ecologically sound engineering and related ecotechnologies,
such as phytotechnologies, be further developed, promoted and applied in
||How can the cost effectiveness of phytotechnology applications
||How can “natural capital” and the benefits of
ecosystem services be better quantified to help justify environmentally
||What needs to be done to ensure that developing countries realize the
benefits of biodiversity (including plant biodiversity) and the responsible
stewardship of their genetic resources?
||How can stakeholders be engaged more effectively in the process of addressing
issues and concerns and developing appropriate solutions?
||How can information on phytotechnologies be managed and made more accessible?
The effectiveness of phytotechnology applications depends on having both broad-based
and expert input into their development, adoption and ongoing monitoring. Governments,
the private sector and citizens must all be involved, and systems for collecting,
synthesizing and feeding back information and knowledge on phytotechnologies
must be established and maintained. Issues and concerns must be addressed in
a transparent, credible manner, and proactive strategies are required to ensure
An ecological approach to development is often difficult to achieve because
the task of synthesis is usually inadequately understood or cultivated in the
practice of contemporary science, politics or public administration, and the
science of ecology (potentially the most complex of all sciences) is itself
underdeveloped. In promoting the adoption and use of environmentally sound
technologies such as phytotechnology, two strategies for change are required – a
short term, intermediate and adaptive strategy to cope with basic realities
and conditions as they are; and a long term, reconstructive strategy to establish
comprehensive goals for sustainable development and plans for their attainment.
The thesis behind this is the need to prevent the foreclosure of future possibilities
that might otherwise occur because of present, high risk, irreversible decisions.
Better policies and procedures are urgently required to reduce the extent of
damage to the biosphere until more adequate ecologically sound approaches can
be provided. Proactive strategies involving stakeholders are therefore required
in four crucial areas:
||Transparency and accountability
||Science and technology.
A. Awareness Raising
It is important to facilitate access to information and to develop and apply
environmentally sound technologies, such as phytotechnology, in an appropriate
manner. Actions to educate stakeholders and establish integrated databases
and information networks should be targeted. Emphasis should be given to establishing
ecosystem objectives and protecting ecosystem integrity, implementing appropriate
management options. Two-way information flow is essential, recognising the
particular needs of developed and developing countries and the contributions
each can make to achieving environmentally sustainable objectives by protecting
biodiversity and promoting the appropriate use of phytotechnologies.
B. Transparency and
Policy-makers should ensure development and implementation of resource-conserving
practices and environmentally sound technologies, such as phytotechnologies,
which support biodiversity and ecosystem integrity. Decision-making and policy
processes should be transparent, taking into account basic requirements, as
well as the value of “natural capital”. Strategies for self-reliance
and debt avoidance should be encouraged. Emphasis should be given to full disclosure
and transparent reporting of options and progress in meeting sustainable development
C. Effective Regulations
Governments are responsible for enforcement and compliance with environmental
standards and regulations. Their challenge includes implementing interdisciplinary
approaches for measuring exposure risks, ranking sources of environmental contamination
and ecosystems degradation, assessing impacts, modelling cause-and-effect relationships,
analysing costs and benefits of risk reduction, and implementing appropriate
prevention and control measures. Policy actions should support full accounting
of economic and environmental costs, as well as the consistent and fair application
of environmental regulations within a framework that supports the development
of innovative, ecosystem -based solutions, such as those which can be achieved
through the appropriate use of phytotechnologies.
D. Integrating Science
When policy-makers look to science and technology, it is important that they
recognize how complicated it is to acquire and sustainable, environmentally
sound technologies. Research should be directed towards the development of
sustainable solutions which take into account ecosystem needs. Technology decisions
should consider overall life-cycle costs, benefits and risks, the mix of human
and capital resources required, and the conditions where environmentally sound
technologies such as phytotechnologies may be applied.
If the determination of priorities is to reflect sound judgement, a precondition
must be the identification of crit ical ecological factors. Better means of
measuring and forecasting ecological changes are certainly needed, as are ecological
monitoring and observation techniques to identify what should not be done.
Avoiding unnecessary foreclosure of future opportunity and avoiding unwanted
irreversible effects is often a more appropriate outcome than the formulation
of comprehensive ecologically oriented programs that may not be operationally