Larissa Mies Bombardi is a geographer at Sao Paolo University. He recently published a detailed atlas on the use of agricultural poisons in Brazil.
Agriculture policy was great for a free trade agreement. Brazil is particularly hoping for a new market for strawberries, oranges and beef. Brazil and the US are the largest pesticide users in the world. How are you doing with them, Mrs. Bombardi?
Brazil spends about one million tons a year. More than 500 pesticides have been approved here, of which 150 are banned in the EU. Glyphosate is by far the best-selling pesticide.
Because of the spread of the surface or because of increased resistance?
Especially because of the expansion. The areas are moving further from the central savannah in the Amazon – for example, almost doubled from 18 million hectares in 2002 to 33 million hectares in 2015.
How much pesticide is scattered?
I documented that in the south, where there are large agricultural areas, sprays between 12 and 16 kilograms of pesticides per hectare. In Europe there is one, in Belgium, up to two kilograms.
Where does this huge difference come from?
The official argument is that there are more pests in the tropics. But it is also based on the model of industrial agriculture, based on genetic engineering whose seeds are resistant to glyphosate. 70 percent of pesticides are used for genetically modified soy, corn and sugar. These are huge monoculture. The area where soybean is grown is four times the size of Portugal. Further, the authorities are very generous in terms of limit values.
Do you have an example?
In case of soy, glyphosate residues of 0.05 milligrams per kilogram are allowed in the EU. In Brazil, 10 per kilo, so 200 times more. In drinking water Brazil allows 5000 times more glyphosate than Europe.
Do pesticides do not decompose in contact with water?
No, they do not disappear, are stored in soil and groundwater and destroy the present microorganisms. Soil becomes infertile, as we learned in a university study. Fertility does not only apply to minerals but also to biological microorganisms that kill insecticides and fungicides.
For 20 years, the Sojaäcker desert?
In the mid-term, this is evidenced by studies.
What does this have to do with Europe?
There is a poisoning cycle. Most pesticides come from the United States and the EU. Chemical companies such as Monsanto, Bayer or Syngenta also export pesticides to third countries that are banned in Europe. Part returns to Europe through food exports.