In a new report published by the UN, declared controversial stance on synthetic pesticides. It is generally accepted that without these pesticides, it is impossible to provide food for a growing world population, which is expected to reach by 2050, nine billion people. However, the report’s authors are calling our reliance on synthetic pesticides “short-term solution that violates the rights of present and future generations to adequate food and health”. The authors of the report are right.
I’m a scientist from Nigeria, my work is related to the control of product losses after harvest. And I know first hand what happens when the use of synthetic pesticides is not regulated accordingly. Meanwhile, much of the world still adheres to the traditional point of view — and the implications for the health of people sad.
The US, apparently, are going to increase the use of pesticides, there who already applied very actively. In February, former attorney General of the state of Oklahoma was appointed Director of the Agency for environmental protection (abbreviated as EPA). In my previous position, Pruitt has been repeatedly brought the EPA to court, and now appears poised to kill the budget of their Agency and to cancel a significant portion of the set of rules. This also applies to the regulation of the use of pesticides, which is essential to ensure food safety.
All who consume food products grown or produced in the United States, must now begin to worry. The dismantling of the EPA is equivalent to the inclusion of a time bomb that will undermine the health of the population. In developing countries, a similar bomb detonated more than once.
In 1984, the plant on production of pesticides in the Indian Bhopal leaked 27 tons methylisocyanate. This gas, which is used in the manufacture of some pesticides. According to estimates, as a result of this leak killed about 15-20 thousand people, and thousands more have been permanently disabled. The staff of the plant was not fully staffed, its working methods and security procedures were not up to standard. None of the six safety systems that could have prevented the accident, has not worked.
The tragedy in Bhopal is still the worst industrial disaster in world history. However, this is only a small part of the enormous picture of unnecessary suffering. According to the world health organization, each year worldwide there are about three million cases of pesticide poisoning, they cause 250 thousand deaths.
For example, in 1996, Nigeria brown beans, insecticide and allegedly stored for subsequent planting, have hit the market. This “leak” caused the death of many people in the South-Eastern parts of the country. In 2013, India organophosphate pesticide killed 23 children who ate lunch poisoned rice, potatoes and soy.
Such tragedies happen even when there are rules of registration and use of pesticides. For example, in 2008, after several cases of poisoning and deaths, the Nigerian National Agency for the management and control of the quality of the food and drug administration (NAFDAC) has banned 30 of agrochemicals (pesticides and fertilizers). However, this measure was not enough to prevent death from pesticide poisoning 18 people in the Nigerian state of Ondo in 2015.
Furthermore, the risk of inadequate regulation is not limited to individual cases of disasters. The accumulation of toxic substances from chemicals used on the fields and in storage, conducive to the steady deterioration of our natural environment, namely soil, water and air.
Conducted more than 250 studies that have found links between the chemicals and some types of cancer such as brain cancer, breast, colon, liver, lung, prostate and thyroid. Apparently, children are particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of pesticides. According to one study, the increased incidence of childhood leukemia and brain cancer may be the result of exposure to pesticides, including their parents. The effect of these chemicals on the body can become and various congenital abnormalities.
All this forms a very grim picture of what could happen in the US, if opponents of the EPA, which is now actually the Director of this Agency, gets its way. According to the data for 2006 and 2007, in the USA annually was used more than 1 billion pounds of pesticides — and this against the background of the current EPA regulation. Most likely, without adequate regulation these numbers will start to grow.
Yes, of course, the US is not the only country threatened with excessive use of organophosphates. According to the Food and agriculture organization of the UN (FAO), in developing countries pesticides are used in much smaller quantities than in the US, however, in States of Africa and Asia, these volumes are growing steadily. It is clear that farmers in these countries are looking for easy ways to reduce crop losses and increase their income. Rules that could stop them, very little.
Moreover, according to the FAO, most cases of pesticide poisoning occurs in developing countries because there is typically inadequate or non-existent medical standards in this field. According to a UN report, only 35% of developing countries regulates the use of pesticides, however, these countries have difficulties with the control over their observance.
Developing countries need to implement more effective monitoring mechanisms of agrochemicals used by the farmers. They also should reduce the use of toxic chemicals for pest control and to increase yields. In particular, it is necessary to increase the use of organic alternatives that do not pose a major threat to human health and the environment.
Such organic methods used for centuries, until in 1940-ies not a modern synthetic pesticides. For example, the organic manure can increase the yield of grain crops, and biopesticides derived from plants. Such natural methods are both effective and non-toxic, they should be adopted not only in developing countries but throughout the world.
Synthetic pesticides can find their place to assist in helping to feed the increasingly hungry world, especially in developing countries. But we should be clear about how many people poison or die, if they are applied without compliance with the maximum caution and limitations. If the Americans can not imagine it, then the dream Pruitt, and not subjected to revision, will become their nightmare.