Agrotoxic in Brazil: agroecological farmers market as a way of fighting agribusiness’ power over our health

Author: Luana de Melo Lucena, FLF M.Res. student

In this post I want to consider a problem of the food system that is of utmost importance. It is the Agrotoxic in Brazil.

Since 2008, Brazil is the largest consumer of pesticides in the world. The quantities thrown on the plantations are equivalent to about 5.2 liters of poison per inhabitant per year. Yet Brazil represents only 5% of the agricultural area among the 20 largest agricultural producing countries in the world. That is, Brazil’s productivity does not justify its position of “leadership” in the ranking of poison use. This absurd amount of poisons did not come naturally. On the contrary, it is the result of a process of imposition that has begun at the end of the Second World War. The remnants of chemical weapons used in the war were adapted for agriculture with the main objective of solving the problem of companies with large stocks and obsolete industrial complexes at the end of the war. This process, which occurred on a world level, was known as the Green Revolution.

In Brazil, in order for this process to take place, the National Rural Credit System in 1965 linked the acquisition of agricultural credit to the compulsory purchase of chemical inputs by farmers. Another key element was the creation of the Second National Development Program in 1975, which in turn provided financial resources for the creation of national agrochemical companies, as well as the establishment of subsidiaries of transnational agricultural inputs companies. In addition, it is important to remember that until 1989 – when the law 7,802 was approved – there was a lagging regulatory framework in Brazil, which facilitated the registration of hundreds of toxic substances, many of which were already banned in other countries.

The increase in the use of pesticides in Brazil is a direct reflection of the government’s priority for the agribusiness model of agriculture, which rely on monoculture production focused on exports based on large properties, using heavy machinery that degrades the environment, and with intensive use of agrochemicals. This way of producing, over the years, has generated serious problems in the Brazilian field: one of the main is the contamination of people and the environment.

The uncontrolled growth of pesticide use in Brazil increased mainly in the period of release of the seeds of transgenic varieties, since most of these seeds are adapted to use some type of agrochemical. According to data from the IBGE and the National Union of the Product Industry for Agricultural Defense (Sindag), between 2004 and 2008 the growth of the cultivated area in the country was 4.59%, while in the same period the growth of the quantities of agrochemicals sold was Of 44.6% – an increase of almost ten times.

And the data are worrying: approximately 1/3 of the food consumed by Brazilians is contaminated. During the research, the peppers surprised negatively. Over 90% of the samples tested were contaminated. The strawberry, cucumber, lettuce and carrot appeared next. The potato, in turn, was shown with indices within those stipulated by Anvisa.

The incorrect use of agrotoxics causes environmental imbalance. Studies show that air, rain and even our water already show evidence of contamination. Even before the use of agrochemicals, agricultural practices in general are already harmful to the environment.

The best way to eliminate or at least reduce the consumption of pesticides is to adhere to a diet of organic foods. Organic foods are still becoming popular in Brazil and have as main advantage being cultivated without the use of pesticides, with attention to the environment and preservation of land and natural resources.

Organic farming is the production system that does not use synthetic fertilizers, agrochemicals, growth regulators or synthetic feed additives. Management in organic agriculture values the efficient use of non-renewable natural resources, as well as the use of renewable natural resources and biological processes in line with biodiversity, the environment, economic development and the quality of human life.

It emphasizes the use and practice of handling without the use of synthetic fertilizers of high solubility and pesticides, as well as growth regulators and synthetic additives for animal feed.

This agricultural practice is concerned with the health of humans, animals and plants, understanding that healthy human beings are fruits of balanced and biologically active soils, adopting integrative techniques and betting on the diversity of cultures.

As a consequence of this popularization of an agroecological model of monoculture, we have as a good solution also the agro-ecological fairs (markets) that have been gaining ground in Brazil. These fairs or markets represent an important strategy to channel the production of agro-ecologically-produced farmers. It would be a way of absorbing the great diversity of types of food in natura and for allowing a fair remuneration for the product sold, for it is the producers themselves who trade without passing through.

The agro-ecological fairs are in addition to an initiative to generate work and income for family agriculture. They are important public food supply equipment. So, these agro-ecological fairs bring many benefits, such as the recovery and conservation of soils, water, native vegetation, the valorization of women and men in the countryside, the generation of work and income, the health of people who produce and consume, among many others benefits. That is why it is so important to highlight the work of these families who bring real food from the countryside to the city and create concrete actions that collaborate with these initiatives.

I believe that it is important to combat agribusiness. Perhaps we have no notion of the harm that this poison brings to our society. We need to discuss what we are eating. In addition to believing that these small changes can have a huge positive impact on our lives and the environment. And by believing that a good interaction between man and nature is a determining factor in preserving the planet for the next generations.

Finally, I would like to mention a very interesting documentary that deals with these issues of agrotoxic in Brazil. The name is “The poison is on the table”

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