Eighty three percent of the fruit and vegetable producers in the cities of Manaus, Iranduba, Careiro da Várzea, and Manacapuru, in northern Brazil, use pesticides, and 90% of them have never received any kind of technical orientation about the selection or application of these substances.
The bulk of fruit and vegetable cultivation in the state of Amazonas is concentrated in these four municipalities, which are the object of the study, “Implantation of a System for the Monitoring and Control of Human and Environmental Poisoning by Pesticides in the State of Amazonas.”
The research, which is being conducted by the Faculty of Agrarian Sciences of the Federal University of Amazonas (Ufam) and funded by the Research Support Foundation of the State of Amazonas (Fapeam), will extend through April, 2006. The preliminary results reported here have not been published yet.
Between September, 2004, and March of this year, the researchers interviewed 320 farmers and discovered that the use of pesticides is generally recommended by colleagues or the salesmen themselves.
“This is a sign of a lack of technical support from the organs in charge of extension. The result is that the farmer chooses the wrong product for that crop or pest and applies it without knowing the correct procedures to avoid being poisoned,” explained Andrea Waichman, coordinator of the study.
It is as if someone bought medicine without a doctor’s prescription, upon the suggestion of a friend or pharmacy salesclerk, and took it without even reading the directions.
Another serious fact observed by Waichman is the generalized use of products that contain highly toxic substances that have already been prohibited in the European Union.
Methyl parathion is one of them (23.29% of the fruit and vegetable plantations in the study were treated with pesticides containing this substance). ” The small farmer chooses the pesticide by the speed of its effect: it has to be powerful,” she concluded.
Through next April the study will form the basis of a data bank available for public consultation on the Internet. The data bank will catalogue the types of pesticides used in Amazonas, the chemical composition of each one, the amount used on the crops, and the number of cases of poisoning .
To help compile the list, the researchers plan to train health agents to identify the symptoms of insecticide and herbicide poisoning.
Moreover, all the farmers who were interviewed will receive orientations from the researchers on the correct use of pesticides.
“Organic farming, unfortunately, is still a very remote ideal in our state,” Waichman laments.