Coffee grown in Brazil could be sprayed with pesticides that are illegal in the EU because they are acutely toxic and cause disease.
According to an article in The Guardian newspaper in the UK, a controversial bill, dubbed the ‘poison package’, is set to go to Brazilian Congress that would allow the chemicals to be used.
A congressional commission has approved the bill, which would lift restrictions on pesticides despite fierce opposition from environmentalists, prosecutors, health and environment ministry bodies, and even United Nations special rapporteurs.
The bill now needs to be voted on in both houses of Congress and sanctioned by President Michel Temer before becoming law.
The Guardian said the bill’s proponents claim it will free up bureaucracy and modernise dated legislation. But it has generated fierce opposition in Brazil, one of the world’s biggest food producers and biggest consumers of pesticides, even those banned in other countries.
The report said opponents dubbed it the “poison package” and said it would lead to the indiscriminate use of dangerous pesticides, while 250,000 signed an online petition against it.
“The law will make us more permissive than we already are,” said Larissa Bombardi, a professor of geography and pesticides specialist at the University of São Paulo. “The economic interest will prevail over human and environmental health.”
Of 121 pesticides permitted in Brazil for coffee production, 30 are already banned in the European Union, including the toxic herbicide paraquat, Bombardi reported in an extensive 2017 study.
The Guardian said the bill overhauls existing legislation, allowing for pesticides to be given temporary register if the approval process has taken over two years and three countries in the OECD have already approved it. It puts the Ministry of Agriculture in charge of approving new products, removing the Health and Environment Ministries from decision-making and making their roles advisory and it stops towns and states from introducing their own restrictions on pesticides.
In the past Danwatch has alleged that workers in the Brazilian coffee sector apply pesticides without sufficient protective equipment and pesticide poisoning is widespread. Even drinking water contains traces of these dangerous pesticides. In 2016, it issued a report that said that, workers on Brazilian coffee plantations are handling dangerous pesticides without or with insufficient protective equipment.