By Karen Castillo
The use of pesticides or chemical synthesis pesticides has increased in recent years in Mexico without there being a regulation that controls the most dangerous substances. Although scientific evidence has shown that these substances are capable of generating cancer and other effects on the endocrine, metabolic and neurological system, in Mexico the use of 140 active ingredients prohibited in other countries is allowed.
In the opinion of specialists, the problem lies in the outdated and ignorance of authorities and users about international regulations, such as the Rotterdam Convention and the Stockholm Convention, which establish protocols for the elimination or restriction of persistent toxic substances and bioaccumulative of intentional manufacture.
Omar Arellano , researcher of the Union of Scientists Committed to Society and member of the Environmental Analysis Unit of the Faculty of Sciences of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), said that in previous sexenniums institutions such as the Secretariats of Health (SSA) ) and Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (Sagarpa) – currently the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (Sader) -, incurred in the omission of the use of said substances.
“It is a bit anarchic situation, there is no control, first because the use of chemical substances in Mexico, particularly pesticides, does not have a revision of use, in addition pesticide catalogs have not been updated, in fact those that are highly dangerous they have indeterminate authorizations, that is, the Ministry of Health has not established the necessary temporary mechanisms to stop using them. This is something that only happens in Mexico. On the other hand, Sagarpa itself made recommendations for chemical substances contained in the international regulation agreements, for which the same agency incurred an outdated. There are also consumers who can access them without any surveillance, it is they who are indiscriminately using many of these substances,
Recently in interview for Still, Víctor Villalobos, new head of the Sader, said that good agricultural practices will be promoted with which the use of compost and organic fertilizers in the field will be resumed; besides that “the use of transgenic seeds will not be promoted for the crops that go to the food chain”. These are the transgenic and agroindustrial crops where pesticides are used the most, so this measure could represent a significant reduction in the increase.
Although the Secretary of the Federal Government stated that Mexico is one of the countries with the lowest incidence in the use of chemicals, official figures show an accelerated increase in these.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) reported that Mexican agriculture used an average of 4.55 tons of pesticides (fungicides, herbicides and insecticides) per thousand hectares between 2009 and 2010 ; in 2013 the number increased significantly: 37 thousand 455 tons of insecticides were used, 31 thousand 195 tons in herbicides and 42 thousand 233 tons of fungicides.
Due to lack of monitoring, there are no updated or clear figures on which agrochemicals and in what concentrations they were used.
On December 26, 2018, the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) issued recommendation 82/2018 in which it suggests the adoption of “actions of a normative, administrative and public policy nature to adequately regulate the handling of highly dangerous pesticides. “, Recognizing that the lack of control constitutes violations of the rights to food, clean water, a healthy environment and health.
The response of the new government has been positive, since it has committed itself to comply with all the necessary measures that guarantee the exercise of the agreements established with the FAO and the World Health Organization (WHO).
María Colín, Legal Advisor of Greenpeace Mexico, acknowledged the goodwill that the authority has had, however, confirmed that the expectation will continue until the prohibition discourse is included in the national policies, that is, the National Development Plan.
“There is a commitment on the part of them [authorities] to give absolute compliance to the recommendation, which is quite clear about the review of the registries that currently exist in the market for these substances, as well as their affectations. On the one hand, a withdrawal of these substances must be made and on the other, measures must be included for the withdrawal of these substances in the National Development Plan and in sectoral programs. This commitment also involves working on amendments to the regulations related to health and agriculture issues, specifically the Federal Plant Variety Law, because the agricultural effectiveness of the products has stopped being evaluated. The lack of regulation is serious “.
SUBSTANCES AND THEIR EFFECTS
In Mexico the use of 183 pesticides considered as highly dangerous is permitted, most of these substances -111- are prohibited in other parts of the world due to the effect they can have on air, water, land and human and animal health. To this number are added another 29 that are not considered in this level of toxicity, but that are also prohibited in other parts of the world.
The Action Network on Pesticides and their Alternatives in Mexico (Rapam) estimates that there are 3 thousand 140 authorizations of different sanitary uses for pesticides. The use in agriculture is one of the most alarming, first because it is irrigation for agricultural day laborers who do not have clear information about the substances, and second because it is capable of generating direct (to the soil and other natural resources) and indirect ( produced by the consumption of food).
The scientist Omar Arellano said that in the country some of the most used substances are endusolfán, methyl parathion, methamidophos, chloropyrifos, astrazine and glyphosate. With the exception of glyphosate, of which its level of toxicity is still discussed, all substances are part of highly dangerous pesticides.
Endusolfán : According to the data of the CNDH, based on the research carried out by RAPAM, this herbicide is banned in 75 countries. The National Profile of Chemical Substances of the National Institute of Ecology and Climate Change recognizes it as a substance banned or restricted by the Stockholm Convention, however, its use is authorized in Mexico for 20 different crops, among which is corn, cotton , beans, various vegetables and coffee.
Methyl Parathion: The insecticide is banned in 59 countries. In Mexico it is recognized as a substance subject to the informed knowledge procedure envisaged by the Rotterdam Convention (where it is considered highly toxic). It is used in crops such as cotton, onions, peanuts, beans, tomatoes, corn and wheat.
Methamidophos: It is a banned insecticide in 49 countries. In the Rotterdam Convention it is classified as extremely dangerous, as recognized by the National Profile of Chemical Substances, however, a prohibition on its use is not established. Some of the crops in which its application is authorized are those of chia, tomato, cucumber, potato, chili, watermelon, soybean, cotton, cabbage, eggplant, tobacco, broccoli and melon.
Astrazine: It is a herbicide considered an endocrine disruptor that causes a hormonal imbalance. It is classified in category 3 of the Ospar Convention for carcinogenicity. It is used in the cultivation of apples, sugarcane and corn.
Glyphosate: It is not yet part of the category of compounds considered to be highly dangerous, however, it was considered as a possible carcinogen for people by the WHO Agency for Research on Cancer. This herbicide is used mainly in resistant transgenic crops of corn, cotton and soybeans. However, it is also used in traditional crops of sorghum, avocado, lemon, orange, mandarin, tangerine. It is the most used herbicide in Mexico.
The use of these substances in the field puts farmers and rural communities, especially indigenous people, in a vulnerable situation, but it also represents an indirect risk for consumers of organic and transgenic foods.
“Through food we are indirectly exposed to these chemicals associated with different chronic diseases. Many of these compounds are associated with cardiovascular problems, are neurotoxic and are associated with metabolic syndrome problems that can generate diseases such as diabetes, there is not yet a direct association, but it is a risk factor. Neurological problems have been located in the communities of day laborers, in children who are exposed to pesticides that have learning and neuromotor development problems. Farmers are one of the most vulnerable populations, “Arellano added.
CORN AND BEER
In October 2018, the ACO Organic Consumers Association announced the results of laboratory tests that found levels of glyphosate and AMPA – amino methyl phosphonic acid, the main metabolite of glyphosate – in various samples of white corn flour and Yellow of the Maseca brand.
The most outstanding cases of the study were those of corn flour tortillas, in which effective concentrations of glyphosate of 17.59 percent were located, as well as in their white corn tortillas, in which the concentration was 12.43 percent. In the American brand of dehydrated corn HoneyVille, the finding was 29.98 percent.
The results of the exercise highlight that: “a third of the maize flours (3 of 9) of Maseca brand that were analyzed contain high percentages of transgenic maize and glyphosate herbicide associated with transgenic crops, while in the rest of samples analyzed, the amounts of genetically modified corn and glyphosate are lower or undetectable. ”
The study concluded that this was evidence of the Mexican authorities’ failure to control the chemicals, and urged the need to return the consumption of nixtamalized tortillas.
In the same way, a study conducted by the US Pirg organization, with presence in the United States and Canada, detected an increase in glyphosate particles beers and wines of different brands, including Heineken, Stella Artois and Corona Extra.
The study recorded the consumption of beers in the United States, however, did not leave out Mexico due to the presence of 25.1 particular per billion (ppb for its acronym in English) glyphosate of the Mexican brand Corona Extra, exceeding the limit acceptable of 3.5 ppb.
This is not the first chemical finding in beer. Omar Arellano said that in countries like Argentina and Germany have been registered before.
Alternatives have been proposed to stop the increase in the use of pesticides and the intake of pesticides. The proposals coincide in that it is necessary to change the regulations and seek the revision of the programs of promotion to the field, which previously were promoted by Sagarpa and Senasica and in which the use of some substances considered as highly dangerous was recommended.
Likewise, the return to ecological agriculture is proposed with a focus on human rights. For María Colín, the focal point should be information and the guarantee of respect for consumers’ right to food.
“If you do not want to have this presence of this type of substances in your food, you have the right to say. We would not have to be suffering with this type of substances in our bodies when nobody has asked us and nobody has informed us. Our recommendation is around sustainable agriculture, we are trying this system through the use of transgenic and pesticides change. We demand the change to the agroecological model with the use of biofertilizers and biological pesticides. We recognize the statements of the Secretary of the Sader on the transition, but the change must be faster and more massive because there is still a limited use of bio-inputs, “he said.
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