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"Spain has the largest area with biological control in Europe"

In certain areas of Spain, pesticides are being replaced by small workers who do the same job in a very efficient manner: insects.

"They work for me day and night," says Antonio Zamora with a smile while standing in his greenhouse. Its tiny employees are bugs that feed on the parasites that threaten his peppers.

Zamora, like most of his colleagues, no longer sprays his crops with pesticides, but hangs small bags of mites on the plants, as these will attack the parasites and prevent their spread.

He owns two hectares in the so-called "sea of ​​plastic", about 30,000 hectares of greenhouses in the province of Almeria, in southeastern Spain, where a lot of Europe's fruits and vegetables are grown.

The bright white plastic mosaic that borders the Mediterranean, visible from space, produces tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, peppers and eggplants all year round to supply European supermarkets.

Last year, 2.5 million tons of Almería-grown products were exported, half of Spain's vegetable exports.

Like Zamora, virtually all pepper growers in Almeria have replaced insecticides with the so-called "biological control".

About 60 percent of tomato growers have done the same, along with a quarter of zucchini growers, according to the Coexphal growers association.

Lower pesticide use and a billion insects
Insecticide consumption in Almeria has fallen by 40 percent since 2007, according to local authorities.

Insecticide use increased in the 1960's, but agricultural producers have adopted new methods due to the pressure exerted by consumer groups, as well as to the fact that their crops have become increasingly resistant to chemicals.

In many cases, the reduction in the use of chemicals has been drastic, and the substances that are still in use are not as strong.

The French agricultural cooperative InVivo, which has annual sales worth 5,500 million Euro ($ 6,200 million), recently opened a "biofactory", Bioline Iberia, in the heart of the plastic sea.

Inside tightly closed rooms with closely-monitored temperature and humidity levels, the employees breed four species of mites to sell them in the region, as well as in Portugal and Morocco. The company expects to produce one billion insects this year.

Similar factories have emerged in recent years around the plastic sea, and approximately 30 companies sell insects at increasingly lower prices.

"Spain can be considered to have the largest area in Europe, and perhaps in the world, when it comes to the implementation of biological control," says Bioline Iberia director Federico García.


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