Chemical pesticides will continue to play a role in pest management for the future. In many situations, the benefits of pesticide use are high relative to the risks or there are no practical alternatives. The number and diversity of biological sources will increase, and products that originate in chemistry laboratories will be designed for particular target sites. Innovations in pesticide delivery systems in plants promise to reduce adverse environmental impacts even further. The correct use of pesticides can deliver significant socioeconomic and environmental benefits in the form of safe, healthy, affordable food; and enable sustainable farm management by improving the efficiency with which we use natural resources such as soil, water and overall land use. Genetically engineered organisms that reduce pest pressure constitute a “new generation” of pest management tools. The use of transgenic crops will probably maintain, or even increase, the need for effective resistance management programmes. However, there remains a need for new chemicals that are compatible with ecologically based pest management and applicator and worker safety. Evaluation of the effectiveness of biocontrol agents should involve consideration of long-term impacts rather than only short-term yield, as is typically done for conventional practices. But it makes sense to establish a legal framework that enables organic and pesticide-free markets to emerge and prosper so that consumers can be given an informed choice between lines of products that vary with pest management. The justifications of government intervention in the management of pest control include the need to address the externality problems associated with the human and environmental health effects of pesticides. There is underinvestment from a social perspective in private sector research because companies will compare their expected profits from their patented products resulting from research and will not consider the benefits to consumers and users. Another reason why public research might lead to innovations that elude the private sector is the different incentives that researchers in the private and public sectors face.