Stop Pesticides Day, the breakthrough needed

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5/19/19, #StopPesticides Day. It marches in several Italian municipalities, especially in Veneto and Friuli, the epicenters of the poison. A failed agricultural system continues to blight ecosystems and populations, it is time to open our eyes and force change.

Pesticides and GMOs, a story of failure

The ‘smoke-gray revolution ‘-referred to as the ‘green revolution’ only to recall the color of vegetables-represents an era, which began in the second half of the last century, in which the need to feed an extraordinarily growing global population was fulfilled by applying models of agribusiness and intensive animal husbandry. With the spread of monocultures and massive use of agrochemicals (synthetic pesticides and fertilizers).

Intensive farming systems, although seemingly functional for period goals, soon revealed a number of negative side effects for the environment, human health and animal welfare. All the way to thecurrent ecological and social crisis that expresses itself in various forms, from climate change to biodiversity loss, desertification and groundwater contamination.

The first warning signs date back to the early 1960s, when they reached the public domain with the publication of the book ‘Silent Spring‘ (Rachel Carson, USA, 1962). A text that highlighted the serious public health problems associated with the release of pesticides into the ecosystem and paved the way for the first reforms in the U.S. that led to the ban on the use of DDT in agriculture and the establishment of the ‘Environmental Protection Agency‘ (EPA). However, the interests of agrochemical industrial giants prevailed over the common good, and the ‘smoke gray revolution’ has come down to us. In spite of a succession of scientific research and international reports, not least the UNICEF report on the dangers associated with children’s exposure to pesticides.

The introduction of GMOs, by the same global agrochemical monopolists, has in turn betrayed expectations based on false promises. They have worsened, as documented in the ebook ‘
GMOs, the Big Scam
‘, the ‘side effects’ (increased monoculture and pesticide consumption, contamination of soils and waters, consequent damage to the health and welfare of populations). (1) Without, however, solving the global food crisis. The system has failed and is driving the farmers themselves to collapse, including in Italy, with production costs multiplied due to increased dependence on agrochemicals and energy and prices instead stuck at the quotations of 30 years ago.

No pesticides. Demands on Brussels, Rome, and local governments

The #NoPesticides movement makes a number of demands of the European Commission:

– ‘revoke the authorization granted for another five years for the use of glyphosate,

– Reform the pesticide approval process and

– Set mandatory EU-wide reduction targets for the use of synthetic pesticides to achieve a total ban by 2030′.

The risk assessment associated with pesticide exposure, moreover, needs to be updated immediately. Recent scientific studies about theimpact of glyphosate on the microbiome identify a serious risk to human and animal health that was never considered in the evaluations that led to the authorization of the already validated agrotoxics.

The political signal is aimed primarily at candidates for the European Parliament. Who are reminded of how their predecessors betrayed the expectations of millions of voters across Europe. Having joined the Juncker Commission’s proposal to renew the authorization of glyphosate, in agreement with member state governments (including the one led by former ‘green’ Paolo Gentiloni in Italy). All serving the global pesticide and seed monopolists, the ‘Big 4‘ among whom Germany’s Bayer – Monsanto stands out.

Instances are addressed to Italian politicians that are still unanswered. Current election campaigns, under the banner of mass distraction, have avoided addressing these and other crucial public health and environmental issues. The ‘Stop Pesticides’ march therefore insists on calling for firm commitments:

– Apply the precautionary principle to agrotoxics. Permanently ban substances still subject to exemptions, set reduction targets for all others that pose risks to human health and the ecosystem,

– Ban the use of pesticides in Natura 2000 network sites, (2) other protected areas and watersheds of wetlands of international importance (Ramsar), (3)

– Strengthen land control and preservation tools to prevent land clearing, logging, landscape defacement, illegal dumping and changes in land use,

– Defend and support food sovereignty and agroecology. Reduce incentives for industrial agricultural production and monocultures,

– Review the National Action Plan on the sustainable use of agrochemicals. Immediately ban the use of pesticides in urban areas and areas frequented by the population. Establish safe distances to protect homes, organically farmed land, parks and gardens.

Pressure from below has a pneumatic force that only Coop Italy, among the big players in the supply chain, has been able to intercept. When we move from marches to buying choices then yes, as happened with palm oil, Italy will change. In the vineyard and in the field, and so on the shelf.

#Égalité!

Dario Dongo

Notes

(1) GMOs belong to the reality of many production chains in Italy as well. With the paradox that our country, Europe’s leading producer of non-GMO soybeans, imports huge quantities of genetically modified soybeans to feed the animals that supply our excellence, including PDOs, from Parmigiano Reggiano to Prosciutto di Parma. Without the ConsumAtors even being able to receive information about it

(2) Natura 2000 is an ecological network spread over the entire EU territory, established by the so-called ‘Habitats Directive‘ (dir. 92/43/EEC) as an instrument for the preservation of biodiversity. With attention to ecosystems and species of flora and fauna, including endangered or otherwise peculiar wildlife.
The Natura 2000 network includes Sites of Community Interest (SCIs), Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs, themselves established through the ‘birds directive,’ 2009/147/EC).
In Italy, this ecological network covers about 19 percent of the land area and almost 4 percent of the marine area (source Min. Ambiente). Cf. https://www.minambiente.it/pagina/rete-natura-2000

(3) The ‘Convention on Wetlands of International Importance‘ was signed in Ramsar (Iran) in 1971. 90 percent of UN member countries currently adhere to it, with the goal of protecting wetlands of international importance through ‘wise and conscious’ use of their respective resources. Cf. https://www.ramsar.org/about-the-ramsar-convention

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.