SPECIAL REPORT-Why Brazil has a big appetite for banned pesticides

jueves 2 de abril de 2015 11:07 GYT

(Read this story on Reuters.com with video, pictures, graphics: reut.rs/1FiV4dz )

By Paulo Prada

LIMOEIRO DO NORTE, Brazil, April 2 (Reuters) - The farmers of Brazil have become the world's top exporters of sugar, orange juice, coffee, beef, poultry and soybeans. They've also earned a more dubious distinction: In 2012, Brazil passed the United States as the largest buyer of pesticides.

This rapid growth has made Brazil an enticing market for pesticides banned or phased out in richer nations because of health or environmental risks.

At least four major pesticide makers - U.S.-based FMC Corp., Denmark's Cheminova A/S, Helm AG of Germany and Swiss agribusiness giant Syngenta AG - sell products here that are no longer allowed in their domestic markets, a Reuters review of registered pesticides found.

Among the compounds widely sold in Brazil: paraquat, which was branded as "highly poisonous" by U.S. regulators. Both Syngenta and Helm are licensed to sell it here.

Brazilian regulators warn that the government hasn't been able to ensure the safe use of agrotóxicos, as herbicides, insecticides and fungicides are known in Portuguese. In 2013, a crop duster sprayed insecticide on a school in central Brazil. The incident, which put more than 30 schoolchildren and teachers in the hospital, is still being investigated.

"We can't keep up," says Ana Maria Vekic, chief of toxicology at Anvisa, the federal agency in charge of evaluating pesticide health risks.

FMC, Cheminova and Syngenta said the products they sell are safe if used properly. A ban in one country doesn't necessarily mean a pesticide should be prohibited everywhere, they argue, because each market has different needs based on its crops, pests, illnesses and climate. Helm, based in Hamburg, didn't respond to requests for comment.   Continuación...