Spread the love

Brazil: in the land of “agrotoxics”, biopesticides open a breach

While combine harvesters finish harvesting soybeans on one plot, Adriano Cruvinel inspects another area of ​​his farm in west-central Brazil, where soybeans are being harvested. still green plants will soon be picked & their turn.

“Our soybeans are in excellent health,” rejoices the 36-year-old agricultural engineer. “Thanks to the micro-organisms that we use throughout the plantation, it is much more resistant to pests and diseases.”

At the head of a 1,400 hectare family farm located in Montividiu, a municipality in the state of Goias surrounded by farms stretching as far as the eye can see, he is one of the farmers converted to biopesticides.

An emerging practice in Brazil, an agricultural giant which has bet massively on transgenic crops and chemical pesticides, of which it is the world's leading consumer: 719,507 tonnes in 2021, 20% of the total marketed in the world, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Wishing to improve its profitability, Adriano Cruvinel initiated a transition to so-called agriculture in 2016. regenerative. It is based on the restoration of soil biodiversity and the reduction in the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, in favor of natural products.

Brazil: in the land of “agrotoxics”, biopesticides open a breach

Aerial view of combine harvesters harvesting soybeans on a farm in Montividiu, municipality in the state of Goias, January 22, 2024 © AFP – Sergio Lima

Below his plots of transgenic soya, he has built an ultra-modern biofactory, equipped with a laboratory. In refrigerators he keeps his organic products, mushrooms and bacteria, some of which are extracted from his forest reserve. He then multiplies them in ovens, before applying them to the plots.

“Here, we imitate nature on a large scale,” he says.

If he mentions the preservation of health or the environment, the operator, who replaced 76% of his chemical pesticides with organic products, mainly highlights the fact that his production costs have fallen by 61.4%, while its soybean yield increased by 13%.

– “Long way” –

Researcher within the public agricultural research agency (Embrapa), Marcos Rodrigues de Faria is enthusiastic: the use of biopesticides “could revolutionize Brazilian and world agriculture”.

He recognizes, however, that “there is still a long way to go”: the domination of chemical pesticides, called “agrotoxic” in Brazil, is still far from being threatened.

Biopesticides accounted for 9% of the overall pesticide market in Brazil in 2022, compared to 4% in 2020.

Brazil: in the land of “agrotoxics”, biopesticides open a breach

Agronomist Adriano Cruvinel inspects a soy plantation in the municipality of Montividiu, Goias state, Brazil, January 22, 2024 © AFP – Sergio Lima

Driven by monocultures, the Brazilian biopesticides sector “is experiencing exponential growth, four times greater than what is observed internationally”, assures Amalia Borsari, manager at CropLife Brasil, an organization representing the agrochemical industry.

But for the geographer Larissa Bombardi, specialist in the use of pesticides, organic products, although “interesting”, do not change the Brazilian agricultural model, which is based on a very strong concentration of land, mostly intended for monocultures (soybeans, corn, etc.), at the expense of small producers with practices deemed more virtuous.

Furthermore, “the surface area of cultivated land in Brazil increased by 29% between 2010 and 2019, while pesticide consumption increased by 78%,” she observes.

– “Gift to agro-trading” –

While agro-trading accounts for 24% of the national economy, pesticides are more of an issue than ever political.

After a long standoff with a Parliament where the defenders of agro-business are powerful, left-wing President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva finally promulgated at the end of December a law relaxing the rules on “agrotoxics”.

If Lula vetoed certain measures, the adopted text, much criticized by environmentalists, facilitates the approval of new pesticides.

Those with a proven carcinogenic or mutagenic nature or harmful to the environment are no longer automatically prohibited. The ban only concerns products presenting an “unacceptable risk”.

This law is a “tragedy”, launches Larissa Bombardi, denouncing “a gift to agro -trading and agrochemical companies”.

As for the bill on the regulation of biological inputs, still under discussion in Congress, it is not aimed at a revolution. For pro-“agro” elected officials, if the text is “extremely important for the long-term agricultural transition”, it is because chemical and biological products “are complementary”.

< p>The massive use of pesticides is finally an international issue. It is one of the main angles of attack of those in Europe who are opposed to a free trade agreement with Mercosur, a South American bloc of which Brazil is the heavyweight.

All rights of reproduction and representation reserved. © (2024) Agence France-Presse

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116