The use of pesticides is today a generalized practice in conventional agriculture, in such a way that a high percentage of the food products that arrive at our tables have residues of these substances. Many of these pesticides are or can be endocrine disruptors, that is, they can alter the normal functioning of the hormonal system and affect people's health.
Human exposure to these substances is widespread. The figures reflect the magnitude of the problem: each year 400,000 tonnes of pesticides are spread in the 28 countries of the EU. Spain is, according to the latest Eurostat data, the country where pesticides are used the most, with 78,000 tons per year.
From March 20 to 30 it will take placeThe week for pesticide alternatives in order to raise awareness about the health and environmental dangers of these, and above all, try to show the alternatives that exist in different areas with the aim of avoiding them.
This international campaign unites around 65 entities and more than 400 actors on the ground, in a total of 15 countries, in which around 1000 events will be held during the 10 days.
Spain's Ecologists in Action campaign
On the occasion of the Week without Pesticides, Ecologists in Action calls on all the competent administrations and the different political parties to commit to approving a plan to reduce the use of pesticides by at least 50% before the end of the next legislature. that is, at most in 2023.
Spain is the leading European country in pesticide consumption, with a continuous annual increase of 5% since 2011. In 2016 alone, more than 76,000 tons of pesticides were sold in our country, which is 1.65 kg of pesticides per person. The high use of pesticides explains, at least in part, the high presence of these substances in our food and rivers, as revealed by two recent studies by Ecologistas en Acción. In 2015, half of the fruits and vegetables for sale in Spain contained pesticide residues, 38 of which were substances with the ability to alter the hormonal system. In the rivers the wide presence of pesticides is also verified. Specifically in 2016, 46 pesticides were detected in Spanish rivers, of which 26 are endocrine disruptors.
These data are especially worrying if we take into account the relationship between pesticides, the loss of biodiversity, especially insects, and human health conditions. A recent review of studies estimates that in the last 27 years, populations of flying insects have declined by 76%, representing an annual loss of 2.8% in insect biomass. Half of the insect species are declining rapidly and at least a third are in danger of extinction. The impact of this loss on the environment is catastrophic, since insects are essential for the functioning of ecosystems and food production, being responsible for much of the pollination of crops.
The reasons for the decline of insects are various, but the first two are changes in land use, particularly due to industrial monocultures, and the high use of pesticides that are dispersed through the environment and poison wild plants like poppies. The disappearance of insects is especially serious if we take into account that 84% of cultivated plants in Europe and 78% of wild flowers depend on pollinating insects.
Likewise, the use of pesticide products is closely related to certain health problems. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that about one fifth of the 12 million cancer cases diagnosed each year in the world can be attributed to environmental and occupational exposures. These and other WHO data confirm a fact that has long been suspected: many non-communicable diseases derive from environmental chemical exposure in its broadest concept. Specifically, endocrine disrupting pesticides are related to health damage such as reproductive problems, breast, prostate and thyroid cancer, neurological diseases and metabolic diseases, such as obesity and diabetes. Current regulations, which allow a supposedly safe amount of pesticide residues in food, do not protect against endocrine disrupting pesticides for which any small exposure poses a risk. The inseparable pairing of health and the environment reveals that, without a healthy environment, clean of toxins, the full development of human rights, such as the right to health and the right to quality food, is not possible.
Given the serious environmental, social and economic consequences of the excessive use of pesticides, Ecologistas en Acción considers it essential that administrations and political leaders implement measures that reduce the use of pesticides in agriculture in our country, giving priority to areas where the population may be more exposed, while ecological agriculture is promoted, free of pesticides, with the aim of protecting the health of all and conserving biodiversity.
For Ecologists in Action it is essential that in the next legislature the Government assumes the objective of reducing the use of pesticides by 50% by 2023, as Denmark has already done, reducing its dependence on this type of toxin by 50%. To achieve this objective, it urges administrations and political formations to commit to meeting this objective for the conservation of the environment and the improvement of the health of the population.
More information:Koldo Hernández, spokesperson for Ecologists in Action, 678 967 727
With information from: