Struelens QF, Rivera M, Alem Zabalaga M, Ccanto R, Quispe Tarqui R, Mina D, et al. (2022) Pesticide misuse among small Andean farmers stems from pervasive misinformation by retailers. PLOS Sustain Transform 1(6): e0000017. https:// doi.org/10.1371/journal.pstr.0000017
A critical issue in the context of sustainable agriculture is the reduction of pesticides. Despite well-known adverse effects, farmers around the world continue using pesticides with mostly inappropriate ways. Relevant policies have assumed that farmers themselves are primarily responsible for pesticide misuse. However, the responsibility of pesticide retailers has never been quantified due to the difficulty in obtaining reliable data. An empirical study was conducted with smallholder farmers who collected 9,670 pesticide retailers’ recommendations from 1489 surveys in the highlands of Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru. This original design allowed obtaining for the first time genuine responses about pesticide recommendations from retailers at a large scale. When comparing retailers’ recommendations with product datasheets, the results suggest that 88.2% of recommendations standards were incorrectly followed resulting in dosing recommendations that were either excessive or insufficient and accurate less than 12% of the time. An in-depth analysis also showed that 79.2% of recommended products pertained to only 6 modes of action, thus increasing the risks of pest resistance. An expert retailer model further showed that all highly toxic pesticides could be replaced by less-toxic ones. Several ways to alleviate these detrimental consequences are proposed, by acting at the root of pesticide misuse–at the retailer’s recommendation stage.