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Costa Rica: Number one in worldwide use of agrochemicals

BY Tomás Andréu (ALLIED NEWS)

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. 

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. 

Water Pollution
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. 

Mass Poisonings
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. 

"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." 


More Regional News

Five Kilos of Cocaine Found Abandoned In Nosara

The touristic police of Nosara were contacted after a strange looking package was found lying near the dump. According to Jason Vargas, chief of tourist police in Nosara, a call was recevied on Sunday September 25 at about 5:15 pm.

Nicoyanos Celebrated the National Holiday to Beating Drums, Parades and Plenty of Sunshine

The civic holiday was celebrated in a big way this September 15th, as our country commemorated 190 years of Independence. The scorching sun accompanied students during the traditional parade, which started in front of La Anexión Hospital, extending for approximately 600 meters and ending up in Nicoya's park, where the patriotic feelings emerged on every corner.

Samara asks District Attorney for More Police

On Friday afternoon, September 9th Aymee Caravaca, The Chief Prosecutor and District Attorney for Guanacaste, visited Samara to meet with community members who are requesting more police presence in Samara area. The meeting took place at Intercultura at 1 p.m. and lasted about 3 hours.

Three Months Pretrial Detention for Suspect in Case of High School Student's Poisoning Death

The primary suspect in the assault and poisoning death of a 17 year highschool student from Santa Teresa, Nosara has been sentenced to three months of custody on suspicion of guilt.

Recycling Improvements on the Horizon for Nicoya Canton

The future of recycling for Nicoya Canton, including Samara, was the topic on the table during a meeting convened by Mayor Marcos Jimenez at the Municipality in Nicoya on Friday, September 2. Ceprona Foundation has been contracted as a consulting firm to develop a complete recycling program for the canton, as required by Law 8839, Integral Management of Residues which was approved a year ago.

Above Average Rainfall Forecasted for September and October

After an early start in May and above average rainfall in June and July, we enjoyed a break in the rains at the end of July and beginning of August, but that's all it was — a break. Now the onslaught of rainstorms (including thunder to make you jump out of your seat) is back and predicted to be above average this year, although not quite as bad as last year.

New Library for Nicoya

In 2012, the city of Nicoya is set to have a brand new public library fully equipped with wireless internet access and an extensive, bilingual selection of books. Spaces for children, youth, adults who seek quiet, a multi-purpose hall and a space for workshops and meetings are included in the design.

Nicoya Digs a New Grave

The days are numbered for Nicoya's old dilapidated cemetery. The committee formed to purchase property for the replacement cemetery is well on its way to closing a deal.

Work on Nosara River to be done in stages
Work to begin by the airport and the Los Angeles neighborhood

It looks like some work on the Nosara River in response to a resolution issued in July 2009 by the Constitutional Court may finally begin in December. The work will be done in stages budgeted at 300 million colones ($600,000) for each stage. This is an approach different from the single large dike project costing 1,600-million-colones ($3,200,000) that was proposed in February 2011.

No Expansion, No New Building. Nosara's Health Clinic to Remain As Is

Despite the announcement of a new Health Clinic for Nosara made in December 2010, Nosareños will have to make-do with the existing facility. The CCSS (Estate Health Insurance) announced it has no immediate plans to expand or rebuild.

CASATUR of Samara welcomes eight new members

CASATUR was hoping to add four new members to its board of directors in a meeting held on Tuesday, August 23 in the community hall, but eight community members volunteered to work with the organization that works to promote tourism and community development in Samara.


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