Wednesday, 15 March 2017

UN Admits Pesticides Aren't Necessary

Since World War Two, the idea of "better living through chemistry" has remained persistent throughout the world. We have been told that we can't live without chemicals, that we would starve without those such as pesticides, but it's becoming common knowledge now that this is not the case. Even the United Nations is now waking up to this, with a new report due to be presented to the UN human rights council.

The new report is strongly critical of the corporations that manufacture pesticides, accusing them of unethical marketing, systematic denials of harm and lobbying governments to prevent regulations against chemical usage. It describes catastrophic effects on the environment, human health and society, including 200,000 deaths a year from acute poisoning. "Acute" does not include whatever chronic illnesses that pesticides and other agricultural chemicals may cause.

Organic farmland growth, 2000-8.
About the supposed "benefits" of pesticides, “It is a myth,” said Hilal Elver, the UN’s special rapporteur on the right to food. “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.” Many of these pesticides are used on commodity crops, such as soy and palm oil, which are not typically used in food. Elver has visited Paraguay, the Philippines, Morocco and Poland in order to write this report, and says that while corporations will always deny the harms of pesticides, the testimony of the people still stands.

Some of the diseases belong to one of our biggest killers: cancer. Multiple studies have shown that pesticide exposure, whether at home or after parental exposure at work, is linked with an up to three, even four or six, times increased risk of childhood leukaemia. For brain cancer, exposure during pregnancy has been linked with the greatest increased risks, as well as home and garden use. There is also some evidence linking pesticide use to other childhood cancers such as Wilm's tumour, retinoblastoma (eye cancer), non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and neuroblastoma.

Fortunately, organic agriculture is more popular than ever. In 2015, the number of organic farmers stood at 2.4 million, up by 7.2% from 2014. Organic farmland was up to 50.9 million hectares, up by 14.7% from 2014. The highest market share was Denmark, at 8.4%, while Australia has the most organic farmland at 22.7 million hectares (as we are a quite arid country, the quality may not be as high as in other regions). India has more than half a million organic farmers, the most of any country, with Ethiopia and Mexico following at over 200,000 each.

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