Pesticide Manufacturers Accused of ‘Systematic Denial of Harms’ by New Report

pesticides
iStock/StoykoSabotanov

Global pesticide companies were accused of “systematic denial of harms” in a new report presented to the UN Human Rights Council on Wednesday, which showed that pesticides have led to an estimated 200,000 deaths a year worldwide from acute poisoning.

Pesticide corporations have repeatedly suggested that the only way to feed the global population – projected to grow from 7 billion to 9 billion by 2050 – is with these dangerous chemicals. The report, published at the end of January, claims that these tactics have obstructed governmental reforms and restrictions on pesticides that could have prevented hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide, not to mention countless cases of cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and other health problems.

“It is a myth,” Hilal Elver, the UN’s special rapporteur on the right to food, told the Guardian, noting that most of these chemicals are used on commodity crops, not the food crops needed by the world’s hungry.

“Reliance on hazardous pesticides is a short-term solution that undermines the rights to adequate food and health for present and future generations,” the report said.

Some nations already have strong regulations against pesticides, such as those comprising the European Union, which banned the use of neonicotinoids in 2013. However, the report found that only 35 percent of developing countries, where 99 percent of acute poisoning deaths occur, had regulations against pesticides.

“Governments must take aggressive action to change course and protect people and the environment from these dangerous, overused pesticides,” said Nathan Donley, a senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity.

Jay Feldman, executive director of the non-profit environmental organization Beyond Pesticides, cited the $43 billion American organic industry as the best example of the lack of need for these dangerous chemicals to feed the world’s hungry.

“There are non-toxic approaches that could meet food production goals, fight starvation, and not contaminate the environment,” Feldman told Al Jazeera.

Experts have already cited other techniques for combatting the worldwide hunger problem, such as switching to more sustainable farming methods, a solution proposed by the Food and Agriculture Organization in 2015. Reducing food waste is yet another technique that could help solve this crisis; roughly one-third of the food produced worldwide for human consumption is wasted every year, according to the United Nations.

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Emily Monaco
Emily Monaco

Emily Monaco is an American food and culture writer based in Paris. She loves uncovering the stories behind ingredients and exposing the face of our food system, so that consumers can make educated choices. Her work has been published in the Wall Street Journal, Vice Munchies, and Serious Eats.