After last month’s rotten meat scandal, Brazil takes yet another step to jeopardize its agricultural integrity. The Brazilian government is preparing a provisory agribusiness bill that could loosen the regulations against pesticides. Written up by the Ministry of Agriculture, the text creates a loophole for the use of harmful pesticides. These pesticides classify as carcinogenic, teratogenic (harmful to fetuses), or as containing cell-mutating properties. Current law prohibits any use of pesticides with these characteristics.
However, the new bill liberates these pesticides under the condition that producers stay “within their recommended conditions of use”. In other words, as long as producers wear personal protection while applying the pesticides, they’re fair game. Mind you, these are pesticides that laboratories have tested and declared harmful to your health.
Furthermore, Brazilians already ingest an abnormally high rate of pesticides as it is. In fact, the National Institute of Cancer reports that each Brazilian ingests about 5 liters of poisonous substances annually.
Agribusiness producers defend the bill as a step forward in the sector.
“The risk of toxicity isn’t equivalent to what occurs in the lab,” assured Fabricio Rosa, the director of the Association of Brazilian Soy Producers (Aprosoja Brasil). “Our ideal is to start adopting risk management.”
Other producers add to the argument that labs conduct tests on animals rather than humans. Thus, the tests can’t provide a proper parameter of risk to human health.
Despite the enthusiasm of agribusiness producers behind this reform, environmentalists are pushing back.
“The provisory measure could generate insecurity among the population due to their exposure to concerning substances, and also through the contamination of agricultural products,” stated the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama) in a formal press release.
Moreover, the Institute notes that risk evaluations undertaken in other countries may not apply in Brazil. Product risks, the Institute maintains, must be evaluated in the specific locations and conditions within each country. Furthermore, following recommendations of use doesn’t necessarily reduce the toxicity of the actual product.
“There aren’t only economic criteria to evaluate here. There are other important points, such as security, which must be taken into consideration,” continued Ibama’s note.
Indeed, all agricultural products must win the seal of approval of the National Health Agency (Anvisa). From there, Ibama measures the product’s impact on the environment. As such, the danger of this bill is that it could allow products that have failed both of these tests for use in the field.