El Salvador free of agrochemicals

The Legislative Assembly of El Salvador passed amendments concerning two laws regulating the use of pesticides and environmental safety. The amendments gradually ban the use of highly toxic agrochemicals and constitute safety standards concerning the use of pesticides and fertilizers.

The agrochemicals, which have already been prohibited in more developed countries, contain heavy metals and metalloids and are linked to a renal disease that has already taken 5,808 lives in El Salvador since 2002, according to the Public Health Ministry.

The Public Health Ministry confirmed that the agrochemicals might be one of the triggers of the disease but stressed that investigations have not yet been concluded. Mario Tenorio, a member of the party Grand Alliance for the National Unity, however said that according to the Ministry the majority of people suffering from the renal disease in the coastal region of the country were exposed to toxic factors while working in agriculture.

The Pan American Health Organization states that El Salvador has one of the highest figures of deaths caused by chronic kidney disease in the Americas. Other affected countries are Panama, Nicaragua and Guatemala while in Costa Rica and Honduras data is insufficient.

Ongoing debate

Approved by parliament with only a slim majority the amendments have caused a controversy in the country as opponents of the law changes such as the Agricultural and Agribusiness Chamber (CAMAGRO) stress the possibility that without the agrochemicals agriculture will be slowed down.

The National Council of Rural Workers and Vía Campesina El Salvador, both in favor of the changes, published a petition requesting president Mauricio Funes to ratify the reforms. The two organizations argue that these agrochemicals put the state to expense due to the treatment of ill farmers while only big agricultural enterprises benefit from the advantages of using agrochemicals. They stressed that the prohibition will not cause a drop in productivity as the agrochemicals can be substituted by non-toxic pesticides and fertilizers.

In response to parliamentary debate President Mauricio Funes proposed to prolong the timeframe in which the agrochemicals would be substituted arguing that food security must be ensured first.  He suggested setting up a technical commission which would be in charge of further discussions while failing to appoint a date for ultimately banning the toxic substances.

Source | Latinamerica Press