Brazil laughs off fears of agro-chemical impact on environment

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Brazil’s Agriculture Minister Tereza Cristina Dias, responding to criticism from environmentalists, says the government’s recent accelerated approvals of agro-chemicals are not detrimental to food safety and the environment.

Dias hailed farmers’ efforts at preserving land and said faster approval of agro-chemicals means more technology at the disposal of farmers.

She told an industry event in São Paulo that the government and private sector need to coordinate to maintain Brazil’s reputation as a sustainable producer of farm products.

“We need to win the communication war… We need everyone to speak the same language,” she said.

Dias’ comments come as Brazil faces increasing criticism, particularly abroad, regarding environmental issues such as deforestation and pesticide regulations.

Destruction of the country’s rain forest has risen this year as right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro prioritizes economic development over protections.

Brazil, as the world’s largest exporter of foodstuffs ranging from sugar to coffee to beef, will not compromise food security or the environment by allowing more agro-chemicals to be used, she said.

“We are modernizing, bringing in new pesticides, breaking patents and approving new molecules,” she told a news conference.

“Brazil was late in relation (to approving) these molecules. Almost all countries use these products, there is a lot of misinformation,” the minister said during Brazil’s 2019 Agribusiness Congress.

Other participants in the event, which gathered farmers and executives of companies supplying the sector, expressed concern over what they said was damage the government has done to the sector’s image.

Roberto Brant, head of the research arm of the farmers’ union known as the CNA Institute, said recent developments such as the sacking of the head of the Brazilian space agency after a spat with Bolsonaro related to deforestation data is negative for the sector.

“This government is destroying the image of Brazil’s agricultural sector,” he said.

Marcello Brito, head of Brazil’s agribusiness association ABAG, said farmers should help the government control illegal deforestation.

“It is sometimes happening close to our farms. We should denounce illegal loggers, we should take a leading stance against deforestation,” he said.