By Sue Branford and Thais Borges
With the ruralist lobby now in control of key sectors of the federal government, Brazil is rapidly approving new pesticides for use, some of which critics say are either unnecessary or excessively toxic. During the first 100 days of the Jair Bolsonaro administration, the Agriculture Ministry authorized the registration of 152 pesticides, putting Brazil on course to authorize more pesticides this year than in any previous year. Brazil is already the world's largest user of pesticides.
An employee from Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources surveys a heap of emptied pesticide containers on a farm.
IBAMA / Mongabay
Pro-Pesticide Government vs. Environmentalists<p>Despite the rapid rise in authorizations, Bolsonaro's agriculture minister, Tereza Cristina, said "<a href="https://deolhonosruralistas.com.br/2019/04/10/no-centesimo-dia-governo-autoriza-mais-31-agrotoxicos-metade-deles-extremamente-toxicos/" target="_blank">there is no general liberation</a>" of new pesticide registrations. According to her ministry, the products will merely give farmers a greater choice of existing pesticides, and access to new chemicals and there is <a href="https://brasil.elpais.com/brasil/2019/01/22/politica/1548111806_421640.html" target="_blank">no reason to be concerned</a>: "The use [of pesticides] is completely safe, provided they are applied as instructed, within a context of good farming practice and with the use of individual protective equipment," said the government.</p><p>Events within Brazil seem to deny the truth of Cristina's claims. Brazil has a <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2018/02/brazils-fundamental-pesticide-law-under-attack/" target="_blank">higher per capita consumption of pesticides</a> than any other country in the world — 7.3 liters per year per person — and it is already facing a serious problem with <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2018/08/brazils-pesticide-poisoning-problem-poses-global-dilemma-say-critics/" target="_blank">pesticide intoxication</a>.</p><p>According to Guilherme Franco Netto, an Environment, Health and Sustainability Specialist at the <a href="https://portal.fiocruz.br/en" target="_blank">Oswaldo Cruz Foundation</a>, one of the world's top public health research institutions, about 100,000 cases of intoxication are recorded in Brazil each year. According to Alan Tygel, from the Permanent Campaign Against Pesticides and for Life, <a href="https://www.brasildefato.com.br/2019/04/03/desde-o-golpe-contra-dilma-12-mil-novos-agrotoxicos-foram-liberados-no-brasil/" target="_blank">this figure seriously underestimates</a> the real situation, as many rural workers fail to report pesticide intoxications.</p><img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTQ0MTk5MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNDgwOTczMn0.OXZ7eq4pTu-I7g7GLx_SESdd6eUOLBtoyrAts1Uty5g/img.jpg?width=980" id="1b634" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b525c195da072e3157f74c74fe658a8f" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Brazil: Pesticide Poisonings in Rural Areas<p>In July 2018, the human rights organization, Human Rights Watch, <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/07/20/brazil-pesticide-poisonings-rural-areas" target="_blank">published a report</a> documenting acute intoxication at seven locations in Brazil, including indigenous communities, schools and quilombolas — communities of runaway slave descendants.</p><p>"Pesticides sprayed in large plantations intoxicate children in schoolrooms in many parts of Brazil," said <a href="https://www.hrw.org/about/people/richard-pearshouse" target="_blank">Richard Pearshouse</a>, assistant director of the environmental and human rights division of Human Rights Watch. But the report found that many local inhabitants were too frightened to speak out. </p><p>In five of the seven impacted communities, people said they were afraid of suffering reprisals if they complained. In 2010 a rural farmer <a href="https://www.hrw.org/report/2018/07/20/you-dont-want-breathe-poison-anymore/failing-response-pesticide-drift-brazils" target="_blank">was shot dead</a> after putting pressure on local government to forbid aerial spraying of pesticides — a common application practice in Brazil, even though it allows wind-carried toxic sprays to settle far from crops in surrounding communities and natural areas.</p><div id="216f1" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9UT36P1576661817"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1020232207225573376" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Brazil: Pesticide Poisonings in Rural Areas https://t.co/bWoQmksz4L</div> — Human Rights Watch (@Human Rights Watch)<a href="https://twitter.com/hrw/statuses/1020232207225573376">1532077287.0</a></blockquote></div>
New Formulations Raise Alarms<p>Many of the requests given the go-ahead this year are for new formulations of already authorized pesticides."Once the initial manufacturer loses its patent, other companies start requesting registration so they can use the [same] active ingredients to produce new agricultural products," <a href="https://brasil.elpais.com/brasil/2019/01/22/politica/1548111806_421640.html" target="_blank">said</a> Murilo Souza, from the State University of Goiás.</p><p>Leonardo Melgarejo, vice-president of the Brazilian Association of Agroecology, <a href="https://brasil.elpais.com/brasil/2019/01/22/politica/1548111806_421640.html" target="_blank">believes</a> that this practice is harmful as it will inevitably lead to a big increase in consumption nationwide. "We are approving several variations of the same pesticide," he said. "We're heading for a situation in which farmers will be able to 'self-medicate,' with two pesticide shops on every block." Little research has been done to see how hundreds of various pesticides might interact to become more damaging.</p><p>The torrent of new approvals is also making it easier for Brazil's farmers to gain access to toxic pesticides with which the global community has serious concern. One such case is that of 2,4-D, an active ingredient in controversial defoliant Agent Orange, used by the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War and whose use is increasingly being controlled in other countries, after the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer classified it in 2015 as "<a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-un-herbicides-2-4-d/who-unit-finds-24-d-herbicide-possibly-causes-cancer-in-humans-idUSKBN0P22FK20150623" target="_blank">possibly carcinogenic to humans</a>."</p>
Monsanto Lasso herbicide to be sprayed on food crops showing proper protective gear.