Dangerous products

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Several pesticides banned in the European Union continue to be produced in member countries to be exported to the Global South. And Brazil is among the largest consumers of these dangerous products

Recent report published by the news agency Deutsche Welle (Matheus Gouvea de Andrade, “Export of pesticides banned in the European Union remains on the rise”, June 19, 2024) denounces that several pesticides banned in the European Union continue to be produced in member countries to be exported to the Global South. And Brazil is among the largest consumers of these dangerous products.

In 2020, the European Commission, the executive body of the European Union, committed to promoting the ban on this production. However, experts and NGOs working on the topic point out that this commitment has apparently been “forgotten”. And production and exports remain voluminous and profitable.

Study published in April this year “EU Pesticides Ban. What could be the consequences?” [“The European Union’s pesticide ban. What would be the consequences?”) reveals that 36% of pesticides imported by Brazil from the European Union are banned in Europe. In the case of Mexico and Peru this percentage reaches 50%.

In our country, the champion of this type of harmful import and use is soy, produced by agribusiness from north to south and from east to west in the country.

One of the products produced in the European Union and imported by Brazil is atrazine, which, in addition to being used in soybeans, is also used in corn production. An excessive concentration of this product can harm the glands and organs of the endocrine system, which produces hormones for the body, affecting reproductive capacity and may cause some types of cancer.

Furthermore, atrazine can contaminate water and thereby affect the life of insects, such as bees. It has been banned in the European Union since 2004, but Brazil continues to import the product on a large scale. Along with glyphosphates, it is one of the most imported products by the country, from the European Union, reaching 200 tons per year.

According to report by NGO Public Eye, in 2018 alone the European Union exported almost 82 thousand tons of 41 pesticides banned on its territory. The champions of this export were, in order, Italy, Germany, Holland, France, Spain and Belgium.

In the case of Germany, 8,2% of its pesticide exports were products banned in the European Union. In 2022, Germany exported 18.360 tons of pesticides banned in the Union. According to João Camargo, from the Institute of Social Sciences at the University of Lisbon and co-author of the study on European exports of pesticides banned on the continent, this demonstrates disappointing behavior on the part of the Party Green, who is part of the current government in Berlin.

Researcher Márcia Montanari, from the Federal University of Mato Grosso, points out that 30% of pesticides used in Brazil are banned in other countries. There are 40 dangerous substances, 11 of which come from the European Union.

Report also from Deutsche Welle, published in 2022, states that every two days a Brazilian dies due to contamination with pesticides, especially children and adolescents up to 19 years old, according to data from the NGO Friends of Earth Europe.

The researcher at the University of São Paulo, Larissa Mies Bombardi, now living in Europe, author, among other works, of the book Pesticides and chemical colonialism, published in 2023, corroborates this data, remembering that the biggest victims of this type of poisoning are children, women, indigenous people and peasants. According to her, Brazil also suffers from underreporting on the topic. For every reported case, she recalls, there could be up to 50 others not reported because their effects were less dramatic or not correctly identified.

Finally, it is worth highlighting that these European exports of products that are harmful to health also have a boomerang effect. Many products, such as soy, imported from other countries, bring the harmful effects of contamination back to Europe.

* Flavio Aguiar, journalist and writer, is a retired professor of Brazilian literature at USP. Author, among other books, of Chronicles of the World Upside Down (boitempo). [https://amzn.to/48UDikx]

Originally published on the website of Radio France International Agency.

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