Thursday, March 09, 2017

Sustainable Farming

A UN Report says 200,000 die each year from pesticide poisoning. It lists an array of serious illnesses and health issues with suspected links to pesticides, including cancer, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, hormone disruption, birth defects, sterility, and neurological effects.The report also explains that pesticides are having 'catastrophic impacts' on human health and environment while failing to end hunger.

"In some countries, pesticide poisoning even exceeds fatalities from infectious diseases," it said. The report blamed "systematic denial, fuelled by the pesticide and agro-industry" for "the magnitude of the damage inflicted by these chemicals". According to the UN report, people can be exposed to dangerous levels of pesticides in a wide variety of ways, ranging from farmers who use it on their crops to babies drinking their mother's contaminated breast milk. "Few people are untouched by pesticide exposure. They may be exposed through food, water, air, or direct contact with pesticides or residues." The UN report also highlighted profound effects on the environment.

"Pesticides sprayed on crops frequently pollute the surrounding ecosystem and beyond, with unpredictable ecological consequences. Furthermore, reductions in pest populations upset the complex balance between predator and prey species in the food chain. "Pesticides can also decrease biodiversity of soils and contribute to nitrogen fixation, which can lead to large declines in crop yields, posing problems for food security."

Jay Feldman, executive director of the Washington DC-based non-profit environmental organisation Beyond Pesticides, told Al Jazeera the $43bn organic food industry in the US is the best example of how the world does not need to rely on pesticides. "There are non-toxic approaches that could meet food production goals, fight starvation, and not contaminate the environment," said Feldman. He highlighted how developing countries are much more susceptible to harmful impacts of pesticides because of a lack of regulation. "Developing countries lack any infrastructure to ensure those handling the chemicals are using them to avoid causing dangerous levels of exposure or contamination. "We don't export nuclear technology to countries that we don't trust would use it properly ... so we should not be exporting hazardous materials or technologies to countries that we know do not have the proper system to ensure protection of public health and the environment."

Paul Towers, a spokesman for Pesticide Action Network North America, an environmental group, told Al Jazeera about a growing movement towards "agroecology".
"Agroecology is the science behind sustainable agriculture, from the ground up. It encourages democratic, decentralised decision-making by farmers and incorporates practical, low-cost and ecology-based technologies for productive farming. Not only do agroecological farming methods strengthen ecological and economic resilience in the face of today's climate, water and energy crises, they offer a path forward for growing food to feed us all."

The Socialist Party position is that it is not merely the manner of farming that is at fault but the motive that farmers grow make a profit, just like Big Ag.

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