domingo, 28 de agosto de 2016

"Natural pesticides as dangerous as conventional": the new truth of agribusiness?

What makes two researchers in Lapland, Norway and the representative of the pesticide manufacturers in Southern Brazil say almost exactly the same phrase, almost at the same time?

One week ago (21/08/16), at the local news website of NRK Lapland, Norway, two researchers raised hell about the dangers of organic agriculture, declaring that natural chemical substances are as dangerous as synthetically obtained chemical substances. Thus, all that discourse about organics not being sprayed was just talk: organic production can be sprayed, so in practice is as dangerous as conventional agriculture.

Pyretrin from the Chrysanthemum is a natural pesticide. Picture: Eleonora Enking/Flickr (CC)
Mentioning the case of pyretrin, extracted from the Chrysanthemum plant, Prof. Arne Grønlund of the Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (Nibio) equalized: "the pesticides that are allowed in organic agriculture can be at least as dangerous for people as other pesticides. The only difference is that the compounds are also found in nature". Scientifically and theoretically correct. Cut.

Two days later, BBC Brazil published an astounding article about pesticide contamination in the southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul. Cancer rates in some municipalities are way higher than the local and national averages. The representative of the pesticide manufacturers Andef (National Association of Vegetal Defense) stated: "all chemical substances, synthetized in laboratory or even those found in nature, may be considered a toxic agent". Again, scientifically correct, but...

Pesticide spraying without protection in Brazil. Picture: Thinkstock

Let us not talk about how unproportionate the comparison made by Grønlund is, nor how seldom spraying is in organic production, nor even that Norway used 3 kilos of pyretrin per year for organic pesticides against 883.000 kilos of conventional pesticides. Let us not talk either of how clear is the link between use of pesticides and cancer incidence in rural Brazil, nor that the average Brazilian "consummes" circa 12 liters of pesticide every year.

Let's just ask ourselves for now: what kind of almost telepathic synchronicity there can be between those researchers in North Norway and those pesticide producers in Southern Brazil?

Regardless of the connection, the comparison suits well the interests of agribusiness, with a good gloss of scientific correctness, in playing down the risks of pesticide contamination to public health.

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