Chemical means for the control of weeds, pests and diseases have become legion during the last 40 years, to the point at which it might superficially appear that all the major problems are solved. An international industry earning more than [pound]4000M has grown up, and spends around [pound]250M annually on research and development: in a period of increasing economic pressures on the heavy organic chemical industries, the speciality field appears increasingly attractive to prospective entrants. The future contains opportunities and constraints, and above all uncertainty. While minor innovation may be slowing down, major advances continue in the direction of more active or more specific chemicals, new formulation methods and revolutionary application systems. At the same time, regulatory, legal and social pressures call into question the validity of the judgement of experts and reinforce underlying trends in cost inflation. Under heavy techno-commercial pressures, and from a science base that is as yet inadequate, the chemical industry is striving to assess its long-term role in relation to changing market needs and the potential contribution of other technologies.