By Mário Von Zuben

Mario is an agronomist from the University of Sao Paulo’s Superior College of Agriculture “Luiz de Queiroz” (Esalq/USP), graduate in Strategic Business Management from the University of Calgary, Canada, and Executive Director of the National Association of Plant Protection (Andef).

Translated by: Pedro Henriques Pereira

IMPORTANT: The views expressed within this post are those of the author alone and not of Brazilian Farmers’ or its members.

The debate over the misinformation about agricultural pesticides is complex, controversial and recurrent. Undoubtedly, one of the most widely propagated myths about Brazilian agriculture is that Brazil makes use of agrochemicals that have already been banned in other countries.

This statement is uninformed, if not frivolous, and does not reflect reality.

To clarify, it is important to mention that each country adopts its own guidelines on product registration. In addition, the world has a wide diversity of climate and soils. For this reason, different climatic conditions and types of crops require different phytosanitary management.

For example, fungicides are most commonly used in northern Europe in cereal crops under humid and relatively cold climates. Insecticides, on the other hand, are more effective in hot climates, such as Brazil’s, where there is a greater diversity of pests.

This means that agrochemicals are evaluated and approved based on scientific criteria adopted by each country and used according to its particular needs. For instance, if a product is used in Brazil, it means that it meets the needs of Brazilian climate and soil, which may not be the same as other countries. It does not necessarily mean that this product is banned in these other countries. It is simply not used.

The reverse situation is also true. Today, there are 22 herbicides, one insecticide and ten fungicides approved for use in wheat production in Europe, which are not registered in Brazil.

This discussion raises another very important point: it is necessary to differentiate “banned agrochemical” from “unregistered agrochemical”. When a product is banned, it means that it has been approved before, but that, due to a reevaluation process based on the regulations of each country or region, its use must be discontinued.

On the other hand, unregistered products are those that have not yet had a formal request for assessment in a particular country. This can happen for several reasons, such as the product being designed for a pest that has no significant presence in the region, or if the product is made for a crop that is not grown locally. Therefore, the fact that some European countries do not use products that are used in Brazilian harvests, and vice versa, only means that these pesticides may not be needed there.

If there is any evidence of damage to human health or the environment, the product will undergo a reassessment process that will thoroughly review the toxicological studies and available evidence. If any harmful effects are proven, the product may be prohibited or its use restricted. In this context, it is very important to emphasize that in Brazil there is a product revaluation system that can be called for at any time when there is agronomic, health or environmental alert.

For all these reasons, we should not worry. The strict process to which the products are submitted by the responsible entities of the country serves precisely to guarantee the safety in the use of these chemicals. It is understandable that questions arise regarding this subject. Precisely for this reason, doubts need to be clarified with credible information from reliable sources.

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