Brazil Imported Record Number of Pesticides in Bolsonaro's First Year

Imported pesticides represent more than half of the volume sold on the domestic market; some are banned in their home countries


Brazil imported as more pesticides than ever in 2019. Almost 335 thousand tons of insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides landed in the country from January to December.

The volume is 16% higher than in 2018 and is a record since record-keeping started in 1997, according to data from the Ministry of Economy.

The growth of imports follows the expansion of sales of pesticides in the country.

Data from Ibama (Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources) show that in 2018, the most recent data available, 549 thousand tons of products were sold nationwide - an increase of 1.8% over the previous year.

Larissa Mies Bombardi, professor at the Department of Geography at USP (University of São Paulo) and author the research project, "Geography of the Use of Pesticides in Brazil and Connections with the European Union," points out as a reason for the demand the expansion of the cultivation area in the country.

The volume is 16% higher than in 2018 and is a record since record-keeping started in 1997, according to data from the Ministry of Economy. (Foto: Avener Prado/Folhapress, CIÊNCIA) - Folhapress

According to her, soybeans increased practically 100% the cultivated area in the last ten years, and sugarcane, around 50%. "There is a very significant increase in the area of cultivation in a short period," Bombardi said.

In the case of soybeans and corn, practically all production is based on transgenic seeds resistant to herbicides - which drives the use of pesticides in the country.

The researcher points to this as a possible reason for the double-digit increase in the record release of pesticides made by the government of Jair Bolsonaro.

Last year, 474 new pesticides were registered in Brazil, the highest amount in the last 14 years. Since 2017, this annual release was already over 400 products. Today, the country has 2,247 registered pesticides.

The Ministry of Agriculture says that it is not possible to establish a relationship between the clearance and the volume of imports since domestic or foreign companies can manufacture the new products.

Today, imports represent more than half the volume of pesticides sold in the country and, among the leading foreigners in Brazil, are the Swiss Syngenta, in addition to the Germans Bayer and Basf.

For Anvisa (National Health Surveillance Agency), the new ingredients are generally products with a better toxicological profile and control pests with less application.

The Sindiveg (National Union of Plant Protection Products Industry) says that, due to climatic challenges and pests, the number of newly registered products increased in 2019. The law that deals with crop protection products in Brazil dates back to 1989, but agriculture has changed much since then. 

In Congress, a new bill will attempt to form the National Policy for the Reduction of Pesticides. It faces resistance from ruralists, whose lobby is one of the strongest in the Chamber and the Senate.

President of the Parliamentary Environmentalist Front, Deputy Rodrigo Agostinho (PSB-SP), said that the increase in imports is a result of the difficulties of the national industry and the release of generic pesticides. "Our agriculture, to be competitive, ended up getting used to using pesticides widely," he said.

He says it is possible to use pesticides safely. "The problem is that many times, those who use it do not have access to technical assistance and information on the correct use of the pesticide," Agostinho said.

Translated by Kiratiana Freelon

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