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Brazil President Bolsonaro issues decree providing faster authorization for pesticides

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Although current law foresees a period of 120 days for authorizing or rejecting the use of new pesticides, in practice this period is about 6 years. The decree foresees faster approval of priority processes for pesticide registrations and rules for prioritizing new registrations, among other aspects.

According to the Presidency, the goal is to increase competition in the pesticide market. The government says that as a result, more modern and less toxic products can be used, in addition to reducing costs for producers.

The decree also changes the rules regarding pesticide applicators on farms. Henceforth, these professionals will be required to undergo training on the risks and proper application of products.

President Jair Bolsonaro on Friday issued a decree changing the rules for use, import and export of pesticides. (photo internet reproduction)

Moreover, the text sets new rules for the application of fines for non-compliance with the legislation on pesticides. From now on, fines can be issued without prior notice, which was a requirement under the old rules.

The decree was met with concern by experts on the subject. According to Larissa Mies Bombardi, from the Graduate Program in Human Geography of the University of São Paulo (USP), the decree places the country in the reverse direction of science and legislation worldwide, which consider human and environmental health above economic interests.

“The Brazilian government has taken a measure that undermines the precautionary principle in our agrochemical law and makes us more vulnerable. It reduces the timeframe for the authorization of pesticides by pen, instead of expanding the technical staff of the Ministries of Health and Environment. In a magical move, it reduces the deadline and the ability to assess the risks to health and the environment,” says Bombardi, author of the atlas “Geography of the Use of Pesticides in Brazil and Connections with the European Union.”

Professor Bombardi says that Brazil is much more permissive than the European Union, the United States and Japan in the evaluation of pesticides. She says that 1/3 of substances used in the country are banned in the European Union and 3 out of the 7 most used substances in Brazilian agriculture are banned in European countries because they cause cancer, fetal malformation and hormonal disruption, in addition to harmful effects to the environment. Moreover, Brazil allows much higher residues of substances in drinking water and food than in European countries, she points out.

She says the present context should not be to accelerate the registration of pesticides, but rather to slow it down, since 20% of people intoxicated by this type of product in Brazil are children and adolescents up to 19 years of age. “Brazil allows aerial spraying application, which has been forbidden in the European Union since 2009,” the expert points out.

Toxicologist Karen Friedrich, from the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation and the Health and Environment Group of the Brazilian Association of Collective Health (ABRASCO), says that the decree is worrisome because, in practice, it will allow products to be released with no assessment of the actual damage to health, even if there are studies showing evidence of harm.

“ANVISA (health regulator) will now determine acceptable levels of illness. Authorizing products with indications of causing health problems, currently forbidden, will now be allowed based on Article 31 of the decree,” she explains.

“We are talking about irreversible diseases, which have no treatment and have great impact on families. Serious diseases that cause suffering. Morally, we cannot allow people to be exposed to these products,” Karen says.

Former manager of Toxicology at ANVISA and researcher at Fiocruz Luís Claudio Meirelles, says that the registration of pesticides in Brazil has never been this fast and recalls that the registration of new products does not necessarily mean innovation, since dozens of brands and preparations use the same active ingredients, which are mostly imported.

“The more brands of the same drug, the more difficult inspection and surveillance becomes. In the market we have many companies using the same active ingredients, which leaves little margin for it to have different prices,” he explains.

Meirelles says the variety of formulas should be viewed with caution and may pose a great sanitary risk to Brazil, mainly due to the lack of a strict surveillance program.

“We need to be cautious. The situation is of greater risk both by food consumption and by the exposure of workers to these products. Sectors of civil society have not been heard and, without a debate, the government runs the risk of making a decision based on an economic and mistaken perspective, because this will not result in the use of new technologies or lower prices for farmers.”

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