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Green groups target poisonings due to rising pesticides prices

Green groups target poisonings due to rising pesticides prices

Infographic showing pesticide poisoning around the world

According to a report by environmental groups in Germany, the rising use of pesticides is the root of environmental damage around the globe.

“You will encounter the problem everywhere when you deal agriculture, health and species loss and water polluting,” stated Susan Haffmans, an agricultural engineer from Pesticide Action Network Germany. Susan played a key role in the development of the program. Pesticide Atlas report. It is a cross-cutting issue of major importance.

The Heinrich Bll Foundation is a green-affiliated foundation. It also includes the German branch of Friends of the Earth, the international monthly newspaper and the German branch of the environmental group Friends of the Earth. LE MONDE diplomatiqueThe report was published Wednesday in Berlin. It contains 50 pages that detail the negative effects of the billion-dollar pesticide industry.

Haffmans stated that pesticides are everywhere, even though we don’t live at the edge of the fields.  

Farmers are often poisoned  

According to a recent study published in the journal Public Health, 385 million people in agriculture fall ill with acute pesticide poisoning every year. Farm workers and farmers can experience symptoms such as weakness, headaches, nausea, vomiting, skin rashes, nervous disorders, fainting, and even skin rashes. In severe cases, the heart or lungs can fail. According to the study that did not include suicides due to pesticides, about 11,000 people in agriculture die each year from acute poisoning. 

Infographic showing pesticide poisoning around the world

Pesticide poisoning is particularly harmful to small farmers and agricultural workers in the Global South. According to the study, there are approximately 256 million cases of acute pesticide poisoning in Asia, 116 millions in Africa, and 12.3 million in Latin America. This number is much lower in Europe at 1.6million.  

Haffmans stated that 44% of workers in the world are at risk from poisoning every year. In some countries, it can be much worse. 83% of Burkina Faso’s farm workers are affected by pesticides.

These are only the acute poisonings, she said, adding that the extent to which they occur is an indication of chronic long-term exposure, which is then in turn associated with completely different chronic diseases.

The Atlas points out several reasons for the significantly higher incidence of poisonings in South Asia. First, there are many pesticides used in the South, many of which are banned in Europe. Many small farmers don’t wear protective clothing and are not well-informed about the dangers.

Haffmans stated that pesticides can be smuggled into small plastic bags or bottles by traders without safety instructions and warnings. Unintentional poisonings can occur when the pesticide is misused incorrectly or someone mistakenly picks up the bottle believing there might be a soda inside.

A man sprays pesticides, wearing no protective clothing

Many farmers don’t have the protective gear necessary to protect themselves from pesticides.

Atlas reports that less than 30% of smallholder farmers in Ghana use gloves, goggles, mouth or nose protection when using pesticides. Only 7% of Ethiopian farmers are aware that pesticides should be washed off their hands.  

Pesticides increase cancer risk 

Pesticides can be spread by the wind hundreds of kilometers and are found in rivers and groundwater. They can kill insects, birds and aquatic animals, and their residue is often found in food. 

Glyphosate, the most commonly used pesticide, has been dubbed the “weed killer”. Glyphosate was classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer in 2015 as “probably carcinogenic”. A scientific meta-study conducted by the University of Washington in 2019 also found an increased risk of malignant lymphoma from glyphosate. This is known as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Pesticides have also been linked to asthma, allergies, obesity and endocrine gland disorders, as well as miscarriages and deformities in particularly polluted regions.

“Studies also show a connection with Parkinson’s disease, Type II diabetes or certain types of cancer,” said Haffmans. 

Infographic showing how much pesticide is used pro hectare

Profits are more important that health protection 

It is a lucrative business to sell pesticides. According to the Atlas, the sales of pesticides in 2020 were 31 billion (or $35 billion) for the four largest producers Syngenta Bayer BASF, Bayer and BASF. Global pesticide sales have increased by an average of 4.4% annually in recent years.  

Unless they are brought to court, however, the companies will not pay for any damage to the environment and health. Bayer was sued by 125,000 Americans who were seriously ill after they had sprayed Roundup with the active ingredient, glyphosate. Bayer has already compensated some of the plaintiffs by paying some of them. Bayer also has around 10 billion in its balance sheet to cover the damages.  

Bayer and other companies sell highly toxic pesticides despite these cases. Currently, pesticide manufacturers are also seeking a new authorization for glyphosate in the EU, although it is due to be banned in the bloc from 2024.  

Infographic showing residue left on various fruits and vegetables

The movement for agricultural revolution

Environmental groups are pushing for a switch away from chemical pesticides. The Atlas’ 30 authors use articles to highlight policies that could reduce their impact.

Haffmans stated that Sri Lanka has saved nearly 10,000 lives by banning pesticides over the past two decades. “Some Indian regions are completely or largely insecticide-free,” Haffmans said. This encourages imitation in other areas.

A representative survey was conducted in Germany by the Atlas. It found that a majority (16-29 year olds) want an agriculture that protects soil, water, and insects, uses natural pest control, and does not use genetic engineering or pesticides. 63% of respondents said they would like to see pesticides outlawed by 2035 and that farmers be supported in moving to more environmentally-friendly production. 11% of respondents rejected this request.

This article was originally published in German.

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