Brazil pesticide approvals soar as Jair Bolsonaro moves to weaken rules


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 Unearthed investigation reveals 193 products have been approved since 2016 that contain chemicals banned in the EU

 More than 1,200 pesticides and weedkillers, including 193 containing chemicals banned in the EU, have been registered in Brazil in just three years, according to an Unearthed investigation.

 Official data shows a significant spike in approvals of new environmentally hazardous pesticide products under the governments of Michel Temer and current president Jair Bolsonaro. Both leaders are close to Brazil’s powerful agribusiness lobby.

 Our investigation found that a number of foreign companies have registered products in Brazil which contain chemicals that would not be approved in their home countries. This includes German companies Helm and BASF.


What are highly hazardous pesticides

Each year Pesticide Action Network updates its list of highly hazardous pesticides. This list, based on criteria developed by the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation and the World Health Organisation, shows chemicals with the highest levels of acute or chronic hazards to human health and the environment. Chemicals featured on the PAN list include substances which can be used in Europe but are controversial, like the insecticide chlorpyrifos and the weedkiller glyphosate. So far this year eight glyphosate and two chlorpyrifos products have been approved in Brazil. For the period back to September 2016, a total of 87 glyphosate and 14 chlorpyrifos products were registered.

 As a member of Congress Bolsonaro’s agriculture minister Tereza Cristina was the architect of legislation aimed at deregulating pesticides. The so called “poison package” would mean that pesticide products would only need to be approved by the agricultural ministry. Currently, three federal agencies regulate the use and approval of pesticides in Brazil: agriculture, health, and environment.

 The bill would also mean that pesticides could be licenced for an unlimited period. In the UK, pesticide licences are examined after 10 years. The legislation could be voted on this year by the Brazilian congress after it passed a congressional committee last June.