Brazil: Protest against Pesticides
by Redaktion (comments: 0)
Organic agriculture is repeatedly having to face the problem of contamination by pesticides from conventional agriculture. Thus Brazilian organic farmers in Capanema are currently fighting for survival because of endosulfan residues in their soya crop. The small farmers are putting up a fight by means of a campaign and their demand for an immediate ban on the insecticide in Brazil.
Endosulfan is one of the most poisonous insecticides used in conventional agriculture. The active substance breaks down slowly and accumulates in the fat or oil of plants and animals. According to the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) in Germany, numerous scientific studies have documented the widespread dissemination and accumulation of endosulfan in almost all environmental media. “Endosulfan is present everywhere in the air, water, sediments, flora and fauna – even thousands of kilometers from where it was used,” say the critics of endosulfan.
The active substance endosulphan is banned in more than 60 countries – which includes the 27 EU member states. In Germany, it has not been permitted since 1991. However, Bayer continues to produce endosulfan here in Brazil and to export it worldwide. As early as 2002, the United Fish and Wildlife Service’s recommendation to the American environmental authority EPA was that it should put a stop to the use of endosulfan. In response, the EPA restricted its use in the agricultural sector, but its licence was not revoked. In 2007, the international community undertook further steps to restrict the use and trading of endosulfan. Thus the European Commission recommends the inclusion of endosulfan in the list of banned chemicals in the Stockholm Convention. “There is a massive input of endosulfan in India and China, who are continuing to oppose a ban,” says the chemist Dr. Günter Lach, the owner of Lach&Bruns. In contrast, several US American agricultural associations and scientists demanded a ban by the ERA in 2008. In June 2010 the use of endosulfan was at long last discontinued.
Unfortunately, this is no consolation for Brazilian organic farmers. Regrettably, the ban in some countries intensifies its sale in those countries where endosulfan is still permitted. Thus, according to information supplied by Adrian Wiedmer from Gebana AG, the use of endosulfan by conventional farms in the south of Brazil rose sharply last year. As a consequence of poor weather conditions with heavy rainfall and high temperatures, there was increased dissemination of the pesticide all over the country. “There is therefore significant risk of contamination of organic cropping land by endosulfan applied in conventional agriculture. Leaching and evaporation have greatly increased the risk to organic farms,” said the consultant chemist Dr. Lach. “As far as we know, the whole organic harvest in Brazil, Paraguay and some regions in Argentina are affected,” Wiedmer reports. “Traces of endosulfan have even been found on remote farms.” This spread of the pesticide is especially dangerous in the case of oil fruits like soya or sesame, in which it accumulates.
The Swiss fair trade company Gebana has been working with the small farmers of Capanema for ten years. Capanema is a small town in the south of Brazil and quite close to the famous waterfalls of Iguacu and near the national park. About half of its roughly 20,000 inhabitants make their living from agriculture, and for the last 20 years they have been practising organic farming.The small mixed farms cultivate on average about ten hectares of organic soya. For years they have been united in their fight against the advance of GMO soya in Brazil, and they have created functioning systems for exporting organic soya.
Through no fault of their own, their livelihood is now threatened by the contamination of their harvests by pesticides. Even though the organic crops were certified by the inspection agencies as having been correctly produced, since harvesting the soya has been stored and cannot be sold as organic. “Until the issue can be cleared up, we’ve put an embargo on the soya and have informed the inspection organizations, the authorities and customers,” Wiedmer said. The authorities in Europe want to adopt a unified approach. The licensing authority for pesticides in Brazil (ANVISA) welcomed the open information policy of the fair trade company and it is trying to ban the pesticide with a court order.
Although Gebana is being praised from all sides for the transparency with which it has dealt with the problem, there is still no help in sight for the Brazilian organic farmers. “The customers either don’t want the goods at all, or only when the authorities have worked out a clear policy, and today we’re still waiting for that to happen,” says Wiedmer. Therefore, with the support of Gebana, at the end of August the organic producers submitted another petition to their government to safeguard the long-term production of organic soya. Anybody can support the protest of these organic farmers by visiting the website Chega (chega in Portuguese means “enough is enough”).
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