Public acceptance regarding the use of diatomaceous earth for the protection of stored agricultural products
Abstract: Agricultural products are under continuous threat by insect infestations at a postharvest level. The protection of these products is mainly based on chemical insecticides.
However, due to their continuous and improper use, major stored-product insect species have been observed developing resistance to a wide range of active ingredients, threatening the viability of these management tools. Therefore, it is imperative to evaluate alternative control methods, introducing among others, more sustainable and non-chemical based approaches. Given that insect infestations are commonly followed by severe fungi growth that spread on the agricultural products, the utilization of compounds with also antifungal properties would be only beneficial. Such an alternative is the application of diatomaceous earth, an inert material with a wide applicability in agriculture (as a soil improver), in animal husbandry (as an additive to animal feed) and in human nutrition (in processed foods since it has zero toxicity for humans). This survey aims to identify consumers’ perceptions on this topic, focusing on the use of alternative post-harvest disinfestation methods (i. e. precision applications with the use of diatomaceous earth). Principal Component Analysis results verify that application of “green” disinfestation methods in food and feed post-harvest protocols is an effective and acceptable practice, reducing environmental costs and mitigating risks for human health. It is also noteworthy that the awareness level of consumers on disinfestation protocols is relatively low, as it was expected to be, as sources of information on this topic are limited. However, according to the results, an important segment of consumers (68.7 %) are willing to pay a premium price (up to 20 %) to obtain food stored in a place where green disinfestation methods have been applied.