Summary Increasing awareness and concerns regarding the adverse effects of pest management activities on human health and the environment have led researchers and, to a lesser extent non-governmental activists and policymakers, to seek ways to restrain harmful pest control practices. Conservation biologists, in their efforts to protect biodiversity, have begun to document the importance of the environment in pest management. At the same time, the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach, formulated more than 55 years ago, has for the most part failed to fulfil its mission developing effective, safe and sustainable plant protection systems. To this end, a new pest management paradigm is needed: a top-down, system-centric approach should replace the historical bottom-up, pest-centric viewpoint. This change is particularly important if we are to harness pest control activities to a global effort to increase food security and environmental protection.