Feb. 21, 2018
- In 2008, Brazil became the largest pesticide consumer in the world – the dual result of booming industrial agribusiness and ineffective environmental regulation.
- In 1989, the country established one of the then toughest pesticide laws in the world (7,802/1989), which included the precautionary principle in its pesticide evaluation and registration standards. However, limited staffing and budget has made the law very difficult to implement and enforce.
- With its increasing power after 2000, the bancada ruralista, the agribusiness lobby, has worked to overthrow that law, an effort thwarted to date but more likely to succeed under the Temer administration and the current ruralista-dominated Congress.
- Lax pesticide use regulation and education have major health and environmental consequences. Farmers often use pesticides without proper safety gear, while children are often in the fields when spraying occurs. Some experts blame pesticides partly for Brazil’s high cancer rate – cancer is the nation’s second leading cause of death.
Pesticides are flourishing on fertile economic ground in Brazil, thanks to the large government subsidies and low taxes granted to the companies manufacturing them, the negligible costs for national registration of active chemical ingredients, and virtually nonexistent pesticide use oversight.
These and other incentives – plus explosive agribusiness growth – resulted in Brazil achieving a dubious record in 2008, when it became the largest pesticide consumer in the world, according to a Kleffmann Group study commissioned by the National Association of Plant Defense (ANDEF), representing Brazil’s pesticide manufacturers. (Oddly, a negative press response to the study caused ANDEF to deny its own findings for years.)
Number one or not, the national statistics are eye opening. ACCording to IBAMA, Brazil’s environmental protection agency, and other data, chemical pesticide active ingredient sales grew countrywide by 313 percent between 2000 and 2014, rising from 162,461 tons to 508,566 tons. São Paulo, Mato Grosso and Paraná became the major trading states over that period. But even once small pesticide consumers, like Amazonas, Amapá and Acre, saw exponential growth, with use soaring by 1,941 percent, 942 percent, and 500 percent, respectively, in sales per ton between 2005 and 2012 in these Amazon states.
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