A group of environmentalists have deployed actions against the use of pesticides in Costa Rica, with publicity events in the local agricultural (famers) markets in Zaporta and Hatillo, held this Sunday. According to studies by the Regional de Estudios en Sustancias Tóxicas (IRET) - Institute for Studies on Toxic Substances, shows that the use of agrochemicals has increased without increasing the agricultural areas. In other words, more chemicals in the same meal, said Fabrián Pacheco and Gabriela Cob, spokespersons for the environmentalists.
The two indicated that the amount of imported pesticides has increased by 340% in the last 30 years. In total, the country imported over 184.817 tonnes of pesticide from 1977 to 2006. All this went to the fields where our food is grown, they said. They said therefore they have developed the campaign "PAREN DE FUMIGAR" (STOP Spraying), which provides information for both producers and consumers to educate, raise awareness and ultimately reduce the levels of pesticides in our food. Sunday's action was accompanied by posters, percussion and even elements of impact as a colourful model of a sprayer airplane. This is one of several forms of activities to develop this campaign and will be visiting various agricultural fairs in the country.
Every Saturday and Sunday agricultural fairs are held in all communities across Costa Rica, as producers bring their crops directly to the public. In San José a permanent agricultural market is held every day, in the wee hours of the morning for local vendors to buy directly from the producers. Many consumers prefer the agricultural fairs to the supermarkets to buy their fruits and vegetables, one for the lower price and second for the freshness of the product. According to Estado de la Nación (The State of the Nation) report in 2009, Costa Rica imported over 300 tons of methyl bromide formulations - a substance regulated by the Montreal Protocol which contributes to the destruction of the ozone layer of the earth. Also imported were two highly toxic substances regulated by the Rotterdam Convention.
The crop with greater use of pesticides is the melon, followed by ornamental plants, tomatoes, potatoes, pineapple and sugar cane. The pineapple still tops the list of environmental complaints in the country. In response, the Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganaderia (MAG) published a manual of good practice obligatory for pineapple producers.
What can we do as consumers?
- Although washing does not eliminate from food 100% of the poison applied it is a good practice
- Demand organic food or foods with low levels of pesticide use
- Attend fairs and markets of products without poison (like in Aranjuez, San Cayetano and Escazú, for example).
- Start a home garden. Small scale organic farming has proved very efficient
- Do not be so demanding on the appearance of products. The "perfect" vegetable is often the most fumigated.
- Demand that the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Health ban red label pesticides and more toxic (paraquat, endosulfan, methomyl, terbufos, methamidophos, phorate, malathion, carbofuran, ethoprophos, aldicarb, chlorpyrifos and methyl bromide)
According to the World Resources Institute (WRI) the world champions of pesticide use are:
1. Costa Rica