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Pesticides: debunking the myths

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New UN report at odds with agribusiness propaganda

The idea that pesticides are essential to feed a rapidly-growing world population is a myth, according to UN experts: a new report presented by the Human Rights Council has heavily criticized the multinationals that produce pesticides, accusing them of “systematic denial of the magnitude of the damage”, of “aggressive, unethical marketing tactics”, and influencing governments to obstruct reforms and paralyze global pesticide restrictions.

It’s not news, of course, to report that pesticides have a catastrophic impact on the environment, on human health and society in general, but it seems difficult to prove it, given that the multinationals that produce them continue to assert that they are a fundamental part of any plan to guarantee a sufficient food supply to 9 billion people, the projected global population in 2050.

“It is a myth”, says the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver. “According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), we are able to feed 9 billion people today. Production is definitely increasing, but the problem is poverty, inequality and distribution. The corporations are not dealing with world hunger, they are dealing with more agricultural activity on large scales.”

But an alternative is possible, and we don’t have to look far to find it. In France, Europe’s largest user of pesticides, a study published by the journal Nature Plants shows that it’s possible to drastically reduce the use of pesticides without compromising harvests or farmer revenues. Perhaps the Members of the European Parliament are beginning to understand too, as last month, February 2017, they adopted a resolution calling on the European Commission to speed up the evaluation, authorization, registration and monitoring of the use of low-risk plant protection products of biological origin.

The industrial agricultural system based on monocultures and the excessive use of pesticides does nothing to confront the multiple challenges that today’s food system must overcome, indeed, it contributes to a general worsening of the situation. The most effective model is agroecology, that, among other things, seeks to reduce and eliminate the use of synthetic chemical products and other technologies with a harmful impact on the environment, biodiversity and human health, that uses resources efficiently to reduce dependence on external inputs, promotes traditional technical skills and lowers the carbon footprint of food production, distribution and consumption, thereby also combatting the pollution of the air, water and soil.

You can do something! Sign the European Citizens’ Initiative “Stop Glyphosate” today, and help us lobby the European Union to change its course.

From March 20-30 Slow Food is taking part in Pesticide Action Week: organize your own event and let us know about it!

Sources: UN Human Rights Council, The Guardian

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8 Comments on "Pesticides: debunking the myths"

  1. penury on Wed, 15th Mar 2017 4:13 pm 

    In my experience both as a applicator of pesticides and regulating the use of pesticides I have found that the great majority of humans have a problem understanding that if a product will kill insects, rodents, fish or birds it will kill humans. Yes, it is dose dependent, however it may also be bio-accumulative. It is something to remember, why are food serving establishments not permitted to use the constant emitting insect pesticides? If you cannot answer that question you may be part f the problem.

  2. farmlad on Wed, 15th Mar 2017 9:11 pm 

    take out pesticides in our current conventional agriculture and we would end up with a disaster of such perportions that would likely end civilisation. Before we can discontinu the use of chemical pesticides we have to heal the soil which will not happen over night. First of all most farmers and agronomists have very little idea of how to rejenerate soils and once they learn how to do that and have enough financial incentive to apply soil health principles. After a year or two they would be able to cut back on pesticides and eventually they would be able to stop using all chemical pesticides without endangering the supply of food and fibers that civilisations require. How do I know this? I’m one of the few that are very close to having accomplished this while opperating a financially profitable farm. The only exeption to no chemical pesticides on my farm in the past year was treating my guard dogs for mange that they possibly contracted from the local fox population, so at times I’m very gratefull for pesticides.

  3. makati1 on Wed, 15th Mar 2017 9:42 pm 

    farmlad, you are correct. There is no road back from petrochemical farming. Too late.

    I hope you protected yourself when you were using that stuff. Your dog will probably not live long enough to contract cancer, but you will.

  4. Sissyfuss on Thu, 16th Mar 2017 12:35 am 

    Monsatan is not going to let anyone threaten their sales totals or stock price. They will sue you into abject poverty with the governments’ help. Corporations are not people but Soylent Green is.

  5. meld on Thu, 16th Mar 2017 3:16 am 

    Never used pesticides or herbicides. Never will. It doesn’t exactly take a higb iq to realise there is no such thing as a free lunch. Poison reacts with the environment in ways nobody can forsee. Fuck farmers who spray, they are simple minded, lazy cowards who put themselves above all else.

  6. brough on Thu, 16th Mar 2017 6:31 am 

    penury/farmlad/meld, I agree with you all.
    But how the hell are we going to feed 7.4 billion humans.
    Trying to stop using inorganic fertilizers and antibiotics on farm animals also. Thats a bit more of a challenge

  7. Midnight Oil on Thu, 16th Mar 2017 8:41 am 

    How are we going to do that? Let’s see, 99% of all food grown in the modern World is grown with this stuff. 1% is grown “organically”, but still need fossil fuel energy inputs.
    Permaculturalist Peter Bane claims we need 50 to 60 million garden famers here in the United States alone. That would me a major cultural a d economic transformation.
    Since the 1980s the Permaculture idea has been here in United States. How much penetration has it made in the mainstream? How much support has it seen by the Department of Agriculture or University Extension services?
    Doubt we will be seeing garden farmers growing anything but lawn grass.

  8. Jan on Thu, 16th Mar 2017 10:19 am 

    Antibiotic abuse is creating a disaster.

    The worst weeds are now herbicide resistant,

    with the population growing to 8 billion things do not look good

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