So much for the agrochemical industry’s insistence that agricultural pesticides are the only way to feed the world. The United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on toxins finds the professed need for pesticides unnecessary, and GMO crops right along with them. The idea that these are the answer to stopping hunger, the rapporteur authors say, is total bunk.
The findings of a new study on global pesticide use and GMO crops, and their effects on humans, society, and the environment was presented to the UN Human Rights Council in early March 2017. In a recent article by The Guardian reporting on this new development, Hilal Elver, the UN’s special rapporteur on the right to food is quoted as saying it’s nothing but a myth, and that:
“Using more pesticides is nothing to do with getting rid of hunger. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), we are able to feed 9 billion people today. Production is definitely increasing, but the problem is poverty, inequality and distribution.”
No Big Surprise
Between retailers, wholesalers, and farmers themselves, an ungodly amount of food is thrown out to rot – before it ever enters the consumer sector. Totally edible food deemed imperfectly shaped, lacking the necessary factors for a really long shelf life, or simply to maintain inflated prices. And once purchased by consumers, the waste factor escalates further. Top it all off with the immense amount of corn and wheat inventories causing a global glut for the past 4 years in a row. We don’t need more grain if it’s being dumped in fields, farmyards, and parking lots. Yet, despite all this excess food, people continue to go hungry in every country, developed or not.
For the UN to echo what concerned consumers, organic farmers, and pesticide-free indoor growers have been talking about for years, is undoubtedly a leap in the right direction. The Special Rapporteur’s accusations are deeply researched, well-referenced, and not so easily debunked. And the UN report covers a lot more of the issues mega multinational companies and conglomerates like Monsanto, Syngenta, and Dow-DuPont have created in their insatiable appetite for profit and power.
The report’s authors, having coagulated data from a mountain of peer-reviewed journal papers, university and scientific documents, and more accredited sources from around the world, outline further grievances against these multinational corporate giants. Including:
- Systematic denial of harms
- Aggressive, unethical marketing tactics
- Obstructing reforms and pesticide restrictions through government lobbying
- Catastrophic impacts on environment, human health, and society
This statement in point #7 of the Introduction on page 4 will be of particular interest. The real solution to feeding the world is regenerative farming practices, not reliance on synthetic life support applications:
“Without or with minimal use of toxic chemicals, it is possible to produce healthier, nutrient-rich food, with higher yields in the longer term, without polluting and exhausting environmental resources.6 The solution requires a holistic approach to the right to adequate food that includes phasing out dangerous pesticides and enforcing an effective regulatory framework grounded on a human rights approach, coupled with a transition towards sustainable agricultural practices that take into account the challenges of resource scarcity and climate change.”
The Agricultural Pesticides Unnecessary Echo
Coincidentally, Scientific American published 3 Big Myths About Modern Agriculture by Earth and Space Sciences professor David Montgomery (University of Washington) this week. The article expounds on regenerative farming being the path to resilient agriculture. Resilience and sustainability are unwanted in agrochemical companies’ version of modern agriculture. It’s totally dependent on their seeds, their agricultural pesticides, and their chemical inputs. And as Montgomery explains, truly healthy soil makes most, even all, pesticides unnecessary. It ties right in with important things brought to light in the UN report.
And it seems that this isn’t the first report outlining that their feed the world mantra is nothing but a myth spun to protect profits. According to Medha Chandra’s March 23rd post on the PAN (Pesticide Action Network) North America blog, the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science, and Technology for Development investigated the future of farming globally in-depth in 2008. Over 400 experts were involved in the study, and reached the conclusion that 21st-century agriculture needs to do an “about-face, with an increased emphasis on agroecological approaches that are resilient, beneficial for the environment, protect human health and provide sustainably high crop yields.”
The Special Rapporteur’s report itself is well worth a read. It’s long, but overflowing with factual evidence on just how hazardous agricultural pesticides are, and how devious these chemical companies can be. Not just in developing countries, though they suffer more from them than people living in developed areas of the world. Such as:
- There are mountains of old pesticides stockpiled in locations around the world because no one knows what to do with them. Many are banned and extremely toxic, some are just outdated, or obsolete, but disposing of them is more alarming than letting them pile up by the “thousands of tonnes.”
- About 60% of dietary pesticide exposure comes from systemic pesticides, either applied to or manufactured by the plants themselves. Not many studies have been done on chronic exposure to systemic pesticides, even though people everywhere ingest them daily.
- “To subject individuals of other nations to toxins known to cause major health damage or fatality is a clear human rights violation.” But exporting no longer approved agricultural pesticides to undeveloped countries to move existing stock is a known practice. And trade agreements present the possibility of banned hazardous pesticides being imported on foods.
- Agroecology replaces chemicals with biology, promoting agricultural practices adapted to local environments. The exact opposite of planting GMO crops that require pesticides as life support, driving the cost of food beyond the means of those who go hungry.
- UN Right to Food Report
- The Guardian (source)
- The Independent
- 3 Myths About Modern Agriculture
- PAN North America post
- Pesticide Myths vs. Facts