A new report, presented to the UN Human Rights Council last Wednesday, severely criticizes multinational companies that make pesticides, accusing them of “systematic denial of mischief,” and “aggressive unethical marketing tactics. “.
The report states that pesticides have “catastrophic consequences on the environment, human health and society as a whole,” including about 200,000 deaths per year due to acute poisoning. Its authors said:
“It is time to create an overall process of transition to safer and healthier food and agricultural production. “
The world’s population is expected to grow from 7 billion today to 9 billion by 2050. The pesticide industry claims that its products, a market worth about $ 50 billion a year and growing, are essential for crop protection and to ensure an adequate food supply.
“This is a myth,” said Hilal Elver, UN special rapporteur on the right to food. “Using more pesticides has nothing to do with eradicating hunger. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), we can feed 9 billion people today. Production is rising sharply, but the problem is poverty, inequality and distribution. “
Elver said that many pesticides are used on crops such as palm oil and soy, and not on the food needed by hungry people around the world:
“Businesses do not deal with hunger in the world, they deal with a larger agricultural activity. »Feed the world
The new report, which is co-authored by UN Special Rapporteur on Toxic Substances Baskut Tuncak, said:
“Although scientific research confirms the harmful effects of pesticides, evidence of a definitive link between exposure and human disease or ecosystem damage presents a considerable challenge. This challenge has been exacerbated by a systematic denial, fueled by pesticides and agribusiness, of the extent of the damage done by these chemicals, and the aggressive marketing tactics unethical. “
Elver, who visited the Philippines, Paraguay, Morocco and Poland as part of the report writing, said
“Companies have a lot of power over governments and the scientific community. If you want to deal with pesticides, you have to deal with companies – that’s why [we use] these tough words. Of course, they will say that it is not true, but there is also the testimony of the people. “
She said some developed countries did not have “very strict” regulations for pesticides, such as the European Union, whose rules are based on the “precautionary principle”. The EU banned the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, which harm bees, on flowering crops in 2013, a decision strongly opposed by the industry. But she noted that others, like the United States, did not use the precautionary principle.
Elver also said that while consumers in developed countries are generally better protected against pesticides, farm workers often do not.
“The phytology sector is in full agreement with the UN Special Rapporteurs that the right to food should extend to all citizens of the world, and that all citizens have the right to food has been produced in such a way as to be safe for human health and the environment, “said the spokesman. “Pesticides play a vital role in ensuring access to a safe, secure, reliable and affordable food supply. “
The report found that only 35% of developing countries had pesticide regulation and enforcement was therefore problematic. He also found examples of pesticides banned from use in a country still in production for export.
A move towards a global treaty to govern the use of pesticides and a shift to sustainable practices, including natural methods to eliminate pests and crop rotations, as well as to favor organic food products, is recommended.
According to the report:
“. Chronic exposure to pesticides has been linked to cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, hormone disruption, developmental disorders and infertility. “” The industry often uses the term “intentional abuse” to blame the user for the avoidable impacts of hazardous pesticides, “said the report. “Yet the responsibility to protect users and others throughout the pesticide lifecycle and throughout the retail chain is clearly the responsibility of the pesticide manufacturer. “