Farmers in the United States now face stricter controls on the
pesticides they spray on fruits and vegetables.
But what about pesticides used on the hundreds of millions of
dollars in grapes, apples, coffee, and other produce arriving in
American grocery stores from Chile, Brazil, or Colombia?
There are moves in Latin America to gradually restrict or at
least, officially, ban the use of the most hazardous pesticides. But
enforcement of pesticide use in the region is spotty at best.
Experts say that in the effort to push agricultural production to
ever-higher levels, many nations here have failed to create
corresponding policies and programs necessary to safeguard workers
and the environment from the harmful effects of pesticides.
"For all practical purposes, we don't have any norms, there is
nothing to comply with. Everything is voluntary," says Patricio del
Real, who worked for 15 years advising farmworker organizations on
Moreover, many Latin American states have reduced protection at
the behest of big business.
In Colombia, the hazardous insecticide endosulfan used in the
cultivation of coffee was prohibited in 1995. Despite the ban,
officials say it is still widely used.
In the Dominican Republic, all of the pesticides on the infamous
"Dirty Dozen" list of the world's (now 18) most hazardous pesticides
were banned in 1991. But nongovernmental organizations have
documented that these dangerous chemicals still can be easily
purchased in rural areas.
In Brazil, which has one of the most advanced pesticide laws in
Latin America, some previously prohibited pesticides are now
registered for use due to heavy pressure from industry.
Chile plans to ban
While on the positive side Chilean officials say this year they
plan to phase out the use of chemicals that are on the Dirty Dozen
list, there still are virtually no regulations on how pesticides are
used in the country.
Maria Elena Rozas, coordinator of a coalition of social and
environmental organizations in Chile called the Alliance for a Better
Quality of Life, says that 40 of the chemicals on the "United Nations
Consolidated List of Pesticides Prohibited or Severely Restricted by
Governments" are being used in Chile.
"There is strong pressure from industry to permit the use of the
most hazardous pesticides because they are cheaper and considered by
them to be more effective," Mrs. Rozas says.
Imports of pesticides triple
In 1998, Chile's imports of pesticides nearly tripled from what it
imported in 1984 to 16,583 tons. …