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Daily News Blog

01
Jul

U.S. and Brazil Trying to Force Thailand to Accept Food Coated in Hazardous Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, July 1, 2020) As the U.S. is subject to searing criticism for inadequately regulated hazardous pesticides domestically, administration officials are standing in the way as other countries’ work toward modest reforms. According to a report published in Reuters, the U.S. is standing alongside the corrupt Bolsonaro administration in Brazil to oppose Thailand’s efforts to protect its citizens from highly toxic pesticides used in food production. Both countries launched separate complaints to the World Trade Organization after Thailand announced it would ban imports of the brain-damaging insecticide chlorpyrifos and weedkiller paraquat, which has been strongly linked to Parkinson’s disease.

On June 1, Thailand added paraquat and chlorpyrifos to its list of most hazardous substances. This listing initiated a follow-on regulation that banned the import of these substances on food, set to take effect in mid-July.

Thailand has been feeling the brunt of U.S. diplomatic pressure since it first proposed restrictions on toxic chemicals late last year. By December, the U.S. was able to get Bangkok to remove glyphosate from its proposal, and delay the listing of paraquat and chlorpyrifos until June. But as the current situation shows, the U.S. had no plans to stop pressuring the Bangkok government after its delay.

Thailand’s law would institute a zero-tolerance policy for any food imports that contain chlorpyrifos or paraquat. According to Reuters, Thailand is the world’s eighth and fourth largest importer of U.S. and Brazilian soybeans, both valuing over $500 million, and is a major importer of U.S. wheat. While Thailand’s agriculture minister has remained steadfast, explaining that there is a need to protect human health at all costs, Brazil and the U.S. argue that the country’s approach “disregards risk analyses in the setting of regulatory measures.” The measure also faces opposition from agrichemical companies based in Thailand.

It is clear that the current administrations in the U.S. and Brazil are more than willing to do the bidding of the agrichemical industry. Prior to President Trump’s election, the U.S was on course to ban chlorpyrifos due to the dangers it posed to children’s health and the developing brain. But shortly before a court-ordered deadline, then-U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt had a private meeting with with Dow Chemical’s CEO, and reversed course on a ban. Even as Corteva (formerly called Dow Chemical) announced it would stop producing chlorpyrifos, EPA has continued to defend the insecticide at home and abroad.

EPA also continues to carry the agrichemical industry’s water in the case of paraquat. As part of a required review of the weedkiller’s registration, it recently downplayed a link between paraquat and Parkinson’s so strong that Samuel M. Goldman, MD, an epidemiologist in the San Francisco Veterans Affairs health system, told the New York Times, “The data is overwhelming. I’m not a farmer, I don’t need to kill weeds, but I have to believe there are less dangerous options out there.”

In Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro opened the floodgates to increase toxic pesticide use in the country. By mid-summer 2019, the Ministry of Agriculture had approved the use of over 260 new hazardous pesticides. Recent reports show that the government is providing billions of dollars of tax subsidies to the multinational agrichemical industry.

As Beyond Pesticides wrote in its 2015 comments to EPA on chlorpyrifos, “Low-income African-American and Latino families, including farmworker families, continue to suffer the most, and this disproportionate impact creates an environmental justice issue that the agency must not continue to ignore.” Yet, not only has the current administration ignored this issue, it has perpetuated and exacerbated it by delaying protections for farmworker families and defending antiquated and highly hazardous pesticides.

Using U.S. diplomatic clout to do the bidding of the pesticide industry, and bully smaller countries wishing to rightfully protect their most vulnerable residents into compliance with our toxic status quo is a horrendous abuse of power. Lend your voice to stop this sort of decision-making within this administration. Join in support of actions this week and beyond to protect low-income and people of color communities, and tell EPA its past time the agency do its job to protect health and the environment.  

 All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Reuters

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