In reference to the environment, Costa Rica paints itself green, like a fresh broccoli, before the International community. However, the oppressing presence of insecticides in its agriculture tears down that image, which is converging into the path of myth.
"In 34 years Costa Rica tripled the importing of the active ingredient of biocides without any enlargement of its agricultural territory," affirmed Arroyo. "Behind this is the dismantling of traditional agriculture and the genetic erosion of the crops in favor of the corporate monopoly of the agricultural food industry."
Data from the World Resources Institute, an organization based in Washington, USA, dedicated to investigating environmental themes, presents this Central American country as the greatest consumer of insecticides in the world, with 51.2 kilograms per hectare. In Latin America, the next largest consumers, rather far behind, are Colombia with 16.7 kg and Ecuador with 6 kg.
The XVI Report State of the Nation in Sustainable Human Development 2010 (XVI Informe Estado de la Nación en Desarrollo Humano Sostenible 2010) — a system of annual monitoring of the country’s performance in aspects of environmental, economic, social and political development — revealed that in 2009 Costa Rica imported more than 300 TM of formulas with methyl bromide, an agrochemical component indicated as a destroyer of the ozone layer.
This substance is under examination by the Protocol of Montreal agreement, a convention created in 1995 under the blanket of the United Nations to protect the ozone layer that has been signed for more than 40 countries.
For its part, the Regional Institute of Studies in Toxic Substances (IRET), of the National University of Costa Rica, revealed at the beginning of 2011 that the quantity of insecticides imported between 1977 and 2006 increased by 340%. In total, the country imported 184.817 TM of insecticides in those 30 years.
The crop with the greatest presence of insecticides, according to IRET, is melon, immediately followed by tomato, potato, pineapple and sugar cane. "These data lays bare the contradiction that exists in a country that sells abroad an image of being a leader in conservation and is not capable of complying with the international agreement that it signs in environmental matters," indicated biologist and columnist Ignacio Arroyo.
The same State of the Nation 2010 report indicates that water contamination since 2001 is no longer from fecal residues but rather from the recurrent presence of chemical residues used in agriculture.
"As of the year 2001, incidents of chemical contamination have been occurring due to the excessive use of insecticides in single-crop agricultural activities, as is the case with pineapple," cites the report. "This it the result of urban and agricultural expansion that has not considered, nor respected, the margins of protection of sources for collecting water for human consumption."
The damage to the aquifers could increase in the near future, since around 450 agrochemicals awaiting the green light to bathe the Costa Rican crops exist in the Phytosanitary Service, sponsored by the Department of Agriculture and Stockbreeding (MAG).
At the same time, the debate is growing in political spheres over the use of generic agrochemicals versus the so-called “brand names.” Environmental activists affirm that both substances and composites lessen the health of the population.
The question is: What led Costa Rica to be number one in use of agrochemicals on a worldwide scale and why do agriculturalists and farm workers overuse these products? According to Fabián Pacheco, of the National Center Specializing in Organic Agriculture, Costa Rica is number one in the world in the use of insecticides because the purchasing power of the Costa Rican farmer, the abandonment of farming on the part of the Ministry of Agriculture and the strong cultural erosion make the agricultural toxins become protagonists in agricultural work.
"The cultural heritage of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador ensures that the ancestral techniques [of combating plagues] are not susceptible to the corporate publicity on agriculture," said Pacheco to Allied News.
Pacheco is a professor, environmental activist and main figure in the “Stop fumigating” ("Paren de fumigar") campaign, a collective founded in 2011 that is made up of a group of young people that are against mining and extraction of petroleum and in favor of organic markets through information to citizens about the danger of the use of insecticides and genetically-modified foods.
Pacheco added that the only thing agriculturalists and workers can do is apply the poison that is prescribed to them again and again, something that wouldn’t happen if the Ministry of Agriculture would accompanied them in advising and prevention.
In June of 2010, a national newspaper reported that at least 28 women were poisoned in the Caballo Blanco cotton-production farm, located in Falconiana of Bagaces, in the northwestern province of Guanacaste.
Four months later, the same newspaper made known publically that a massive poisoning by insecticides had affected 65 workers at a genetically-modified cotton production company located in Las Loras farm in San Agustín de Chomes, Puntarenas province, on the Pacific coast.
The Costa Rican Social Security administration (CCSS) revealed that last year 146 people in total were seen for "accidental poisoning by exposure to insecticides," according to an official report to which Allied News had access. Of these, 12 died.
San José, the capital, registered a total of 15 cases, along with Alajuela (51), Puntarenas (23) and Limon (26), among others.
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