As of 2020, Brazilians do not know how much pesticide residue is found in apples, oranges, tomatoes, peppers and other products sold at fairs and supermarkets across the country. This is because the federal government’s main monitoring program has not disclosed the results of the collections carried out since the beginning of Jair Bolsonaro’s (PL) administration. The last publication was precisely in 2019 from samples collected in 2017 and 2018.
Established in 2001, the Pesticide Residues Analysis (PARA) Program has published seven reports. “Since the government itself evaluates and authorizes pesticides, which are substances that pose a risk to human health, monitoring becomes mandatory. [O programa] this is what allows you to know what happens after the release of a certain pesticide, what is contaminated and in what proportion,” says Luis Claudio Meirelles, researcher at the National School of Public Health of Fiocruz, who was also one of the founders of PARA. when he was manager of toxicology at Anvisa.
In August 2020, Anvisa announced that fees would be temporarily suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The results of the collections made in the cycle of the second half of the year 2018 and 2019 are not disclosed, and since 2020 there have been no new collections to assess the vegetables and fruits consumed by the population. Through the press service, the departments replied that the report with data for 2018 and 2019 is planned to be released in the second half of this year. Regarding the new collections, the advisory body replied that “preparatory activities for the collection and analysis of samples are underway as of the second half of 2022.”
The result of the last release was evaluated government agency e Reporter Brazil and found that oranges, peppers, and guava were top pesticide products above the limit. Of every ten peppers, eight pesticides were banned or exceeded the permitted level, while 42% of guava samples, 39% of carrots, and 35% of tomatoes tested were non-compliant. In the latest edition of the Program, 14 fruits and vegetables were analyzed and the samples were collected between August 2017 and June 2018, that is, before Jair Bolsonaro, who keeps a historical record of pesticide emissions, came to power.
Products with banned pesticides or above the limit in a report published in 2019.
In recent years, Brazil has averaged 500 new product approvals annually, according to a Friends of the Earth report by researchers Larissa Mies Bombardi and Audrey Chango. “While the government is asking Anvisa to speed up the registration of new pesticides, it is not supporting programs like PARA,” said Fran Paula, member of the National Association of Agroecologists (ANA) and agronomist. The role of the Brazilian Public Health Agency will be twisted to serve the chemical industry, she said. “The program is an example of this attack and an attempt to change the direction of the Agency itself,” he says.
Anvisa’s pesticide performance is PL 6,299, dubbed the Poison Package. The bill being discussed in the Senate would make the Department of Agriculture and Livestock (MAPA) responsible for approving new products, removing Anvisa and Ibama from power. Currently, for a new pesticide to be registered in a country, it must be approved by three authorities. Luis Claudio Meirelles believes that the approval of PL 6299 will mean the end of Anvisa’s program to analyze agrochemical residues in food products. “If we take away the competence of healthcare [para registro de agrotóxicos]The Agency is unlikely to prioritize the Program,” he says. Meirelles believes that the pesticide situation has worsened.
Brazil has no other regular pesticide exposure programs, researcher criticizes
The first PARA report released by Anvisa contained information on the amount of pesticides in food between 2001 and 2007 and reported that the program would be implemented gradually due to infrastructure reasons (such as a lack of government laboratories that conduct tests) and articulation with government public oversight . The next three reports were annual (2008, 2009 and 2010). He then began unevenly compressing the years, tracking samples from 2011 and 2012, and then from 2013 to 2015.
For ANA member Fran Paula, fluctuations in these periods have already demonstrated the disruption of the program. “It conveyed the feeling that everything was in order, that there was no longer any need to monitor food,” he says.
In response to the announcement, the Anvisa press office said that “the decision on the timing of disclosure depends primarily on the receipt and consolidation of all the results of the analyzed samples, as well as consideration of the context of the implementation of the Program.”
The former manager of Anvisa recalls that even if the program is implemented, it will no longer be enough, because it controls only natural products. “[O governo] in addition to water, you will have to keep an eye on processed animal foods to have a better idea of pesticide pollution levels in a country that is a champion in the use of poisons,” he says. Such monitoring is not conducted or disclosed on a systematic basis by the Brazilian government, but there are initiatives to investigate and disclose situations. An example is the Water Resources Map published by government agency e Reporter Brazil, which reveals publicly available data to show that there are pesticides in the water that comes out of taps in several cities across the country. Another example is an Idec study in which pesticides were found in 60% of ultra-processed foods such as tubes, crackers and milk drinks.
In addition to Anvisa’s PARA, Mapa also monitors pesticide residues in food. “There is a big difference because PARA [Programa da Anvisa] the only company that analyzes pesticide residues in food entering the tables of the population, on supermarket shelves. The Mapa program collects samples in the production area,” says Fran Paula. “There is a long way between the place of production and consumption. An orange produced in Rio Grande do Sul can be delivered, for example, to Mato Grosso in five or six days, and it contains even more chemical products. So you have to keep in mind that there is a difference between programs and their purpose,” he says.
Anvisa Changes Tone on Pesticides in Food Disclosure in Latest Report
The significant changes have already been criticized in the latest survey conducted by Anvisa, published in 2019. The report had an upbeat tone, saying that “plant-based foods are safe.” Anvisa has assessed for the first time the possibility of chronic (long-term) health risk in addition to acute (short-term) risk. To do this, they used data on how much Brazilians consume on average of each food and the weight of consumers aged 10 years and over, that is, without taking into account the risk for children from zero to 10 years.
“No situations of potential risk to consumer health have been identified,” the document says in regards to chronic risks. In the report, acute risk was identified in only 0.89% of samples, i.e. in 41 samples of fruits and vegetables. Of these, 27 were oranges. The document does not clearly set out information that was highlighted in the release of previous reports.
The report, for example, did not cover the information that for every 14 oranges sold in the markets, there are enough pesticides to cause immediate poisoning. The five oranges analyzed had more than five times the exposure safety limit, all due to the pesticide carbofuran, an insecticide banned in Brazil since 2017 for causing harm to the nervous system, such as neuronal death.
An independent review of the same report by the Fiocruz Pesticide Working Group indicates that 34% of the samples identified mixtures of pesticides containing between two and 21 different types of active ingredients. “When the methodology changed, which put the acute reference dose as a parameter, it was all over! Of course, there will be no pesticide residues that have such an acute effect on someone – only in very rare cases. But this is not something that matters in the toxicological assessment of residues, because no one in their right mind would want to eat a salad with 15 different types of pesticides,” concludes Meirelles.