The plate of poisons and ecosystems destruction

At least 25,000 cases of pesticides intoxication and 1,186 fatalities were recorded by the Brazilian government between 2007 to 2014, with many of the cases linked to the use of glyphosate herbicides in monocultures. The figures could be way higher. A recent FIAN study noted that for each case notified by Brazil’s health system, “there would be another 50 unregistered cases” of pesticide poisoning in the country.

One thing that remains undisclosed on product labels is that mass-produced monocrops impoverish the soil by zapping it of its nutrients and weakening its capacity to support healthy plant growth. Fatigued and depleted, the soil has to be continuously bombarded with chemical fertilizers and pesticides to keep yields high.

The heavy dependence of monocrops on these toxic agrochemicals does not only affect the soil and the crops grown on it. Agrotoxics also pollute the air we breathe, leach into the ground, contaminate the water we drink, and poison aquifers, streams, lakes and rivers, from where we source our food.

These same water bodies also get depleted as they are used to irrigate thirsty monocrops that are grown in plantations where a significant layer of topsoil is lost in order to retain water because of mechanical tillage. This, in turn, threatens fragile ecosystems such as wetlands that host a wide range of wildlife and plant species that depend on these water bodies for survival.

Also impoverished, exploited, and endangered by this food system are workers, their families, and local communities, who are highly exposed to agrotoxics used in industrial agriculture.

For example, in Brazil, pesticides sprayed over millions of hectares of land mostly planted with monocrops (such as soybean) have resulted in numerous cases of deaths and diseases.

Lastly, all of us are exposed to food and beverages with pesticide residues.

Why are we pursuing this form of food production despite all of its harms? Who benefits from it?