Pesticides: activists warn of the risk of Congress overturning Lula’s veto of the so-called 'Poison Bill'

A member of the Permanent Campaign Against Pesticides and for Life says 'the agribusiness caucus is very strong'

Translated by: Ana Paula Rocha

midnite | São Paulo (SP) |
After seven years on the rise, the number of pesticides allowed for use in Brazil fell. However, it's still the third largest amount approved in a year according to the historical series, which began in 2000 - Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil

After seven years on the rise, the fall in the number of pesticides allowed for use in Brazil cannot be interpreted as the result of tough inspection. That’s what Alan Tygel, a member of the coordination at the Permanent Campaign Against Pesticides and for Life. According to the Ministry of Agriculture updated last week, 555 products were allowed for use in Brazil by the Lula government in 2023.

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The number shows a 15% fall compared to 2022, when 652 substances were allowed for use in the country. The decrease happened after the Workers’ Party's comeback to the presidency. Despite this, that’s the third largest amount approved in a year according to the historical series, which began in 2000.

“Indeed, since the 2016 coup against then President Dilma, there has been an exponential increase in the number of pesticide registrations. And what we observed in 2023 was a small drop compared to 2022, but still at a very high level. There was a decrease in this growing trend, but we are pretty far from having an inspection, a process that respects health and the environment, which prioritizes the registration of products suitable for organic farming, maintaining far from markets products considered highly toxic out of the market, particularly products already banned in the European Union and other countries,” Tygel explains. 

The bill that makes flexible the rules for allowing and marketing pesticides in Brazil was approved for the second time in the Senate in November last year after undergoing changes in the Chamber of Deputies. Dubbed “the Poison Bill” by environmentalists and members of civil society who point out the risks of pesticides to humans, the proposal was sanctioned in December last year with 14 sections vetoed by President Lula

“The process that ended up in the new pesticide law was one of a 10-year-long intense struggle by the Permanent Campaign Against Pesticides and for Life with many and diverse organizations from around the country that have tried, since at least 2015, to stop pesticide deregulation in Brazil. In the initial proposal, we reduced many harms, including maintaining the term ‘pesticide’, which defenders wanted to be called ‘phytosanitary pesticides’”, Tygel recalls. 

Among Lula’s vetoes, there is an excerpt aimed at concentrating allowances for pesticides through the Ministry of Agriculture, in case the Brazilian Health Regulatory Agency (Anvisa, in Portuguese) does not conclude the analysis within the given deadline. Tygel believes the veto is a positive measure, but it can be overturned by the parliament after the recess, together with other restrictions.

“We are very concerned about how the Congress will analyze these vetoes since the agribusiness caucus and the Agricultural Parliamentary Front are the majority and are very unsatisfied [with the presidential vetoes]. Now we see society's power to pressure and the government's articulation so that we can at least try to keep the power in the hands of Anvisa and Ibama [Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources] in force as it is in the current law,” says Alan.

Alan Tygel does not expect positive actions from Congress regarding healthy food production. Although without expectations, he intends to resume the National Pesticide Reduction Program, which depends on the government.

“It was a program created in 2013. At the time, it was approved by all ministries, except the Ministry of Agriculture, led by then-minister Kátia Abreu. So, we want to resume this program, which is within the scope of the National Agroecology and Organic Production Policy and is, by the way, a conservative program. We aren’t talking about abolishing pesticides overnight, as we would like. We are talking about gradual decrease, restrictive measures, protection measures, and, most importantly, financing for research and technical assistance to agroecology, the kind of public policy we need,” he explained. 

You can watch the full interview with Alan Tygel in this Monday's edition (15) of Central do Brasil, available on midnite’s YouTube channel.

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Edited by: Matheus Alves de Almeida

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