One of the main foods in the daily life of Brazilians, beans, have residues of pesticides that are banned or above the permitted limit. This is what a survey by the Ministry of Agriculture, Breeding and Supply (Mapa) reveals: 89% of cowpea and 32% common bean samples, collected in 2019, were not compliant. Cowpea, also known as cowpea, is used in salads and dishes such as baião de dois.
In 2020, the beans continued to have problems: 77% of cowpea samples and 37% of common bean samples had non-standard pesticide levels.
In all, the ministry’s latest survey analyzed 37 products between 2019 and 2020. In addition to beans, peppers and strawberries also showed high levels of non-compliant pesticide residues.
The National Plan for the Control of Residues and Contaminants in Products of Vegetable Origin (PNCRC / Vegetale) has been carried out by Mapa since 2008. In addition to monitoring pesticide residues, it investigates the presence of chemicals (such as arsenic and lead) and biological contaminants (such as salmonella). ) in vegetables intended for the domestic market and for export.
The PNCRC is one of two federal government programs that monitor pesticides in food. The other is the Program for the Analysis of Residues of Pesticides in Food (PARA), created by Anvisa. As determined by Public authority And Reporter Brazil, this program has been stalled for more than two years. Since 2020 Anvisa does not carry out new food tests. The government released only the results of samples collected up to 2018, which highlighted problems especially in oranges, peppers and guava.
PARA searches for pesticide residues in fruit and vegetables from supermarkets and fairs, focusing on the health risks for consumers. The Mapa program, on the other hand, collects in rural properties and supply centers. Since 2019, over BRL 4 million have been applied in fines for irregularities.
In response to the report, the press office of the Ministry of Agriculture said that the two programs would be complementary for the safety of food consumed by the population. Also according to the press office, the results of the PNCRC collections carried out in 2021 are being evaluated and will be disseminated shortly.
Glyphosate is the main pesticide found in beans
The government announced that the results of the 2019 and 2020 harvests “confirm the safety for the consumption of vegetables sold in the country” and highlighted that 89% of the samples of all foods evaluated were compliant.
As for the pesticides found in beans, Mapa said so “according to Anvisa, the irregularities found in beans do not present an acute risk in the consumption of these foods ”.
The acute risk is when the effects appear soon after consumption, which can range from headache to kidney attacks. There is also the chronic effect, when diseases appear after a long period of frequent consumption. In other words, according to Anvisa’s opinion, those who consume beans with pesticide residues do not immediately experience problems.
However, the researchers heard by the report stress that it is essential to assess chronic health risk. “The chronic health consequences of pesticides are very serious. They affect organs, tissues and systems of our organism, generating cancer, neurological, psychological, pulmonary, renal and endocrine alterations “, assesses Guilherme Cavalcanti de Albuquerque, doctor and professor who also coordinated the Observatory on the use of pesticides and the consequences for Human Health and the Federal University of Paraná (UFPR).
The government’s optimistic interpretation has drawn criticism from experts monitoring the industry. “It’s a way to deceive the population,” says agronomist Leonardo Melgarejo, a member of the Brazilian Association of Agroecology (ABA) and the Permanent Campaign Against Pesticides and for Life. “The chronic problem is gradual poisoning, and it is the most relevant.”
Glyphosate, the best-selling pesticide in Brazil according to a report released by Ibama, was the main one found by the Ministry in both types of beans. Among its long-term effects, diseases such as depression, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are related.
Of 89% of the cowpeas tested in 2019 that showed non-compliance, all ten samples collected in Paraíba were irregular, and only two of the nine Pernambuco samples were compliant. The 2020 analysis showed that in Tocantins, Mato Grosso do Sul, Distrito Federal and Amazonas, none of the samples were compliant. In Maranhão, of the eight samples tested, only one was regular.
As for the common bean, the collections carried out in 2020 in Amazonas showed 67% of irregularities, followed by Rio Grande do Sul (57%) and Paraná (49%). In the 2019 survey, Rio Grande do Sul beans had the highest rate of irregularity (58%), followed by Santa Catarina (40%) and San Paolo (36%).
Peppers and strawberries carry pesticide residues
In addition to the beans, the peppers had a high rate of irregularity. In 2020, 64% of peppers harvested in 13 states were ineligible. In Tocantins and Paraná none of the champions met the parameters. In Rio Grande do Sul, 73% of peppers disagreed, 68% in São Paulo and 67% in Santa Catarina and Paraíba. In Alagoas, Distrito Federal, Maranhão, Mato Grosso do Sul and Pernambuco half of the champions were irregular.
In 2019, 65% of peppers were unsuitable. None of the four pepper samples collected in Goiás were compliant, while in Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul 75% did not meet the parameters.
Strawberries also had problems in more than half (57%) of the 2019 samples. In Minas Gerais, 75% of the harvests did not meet the criteria and mainly contained acetamiprid and imidacloprid. The latter is a neonicotinoid, a nicotine-derived insecticide that has the ability to spread to all parts of the plant and is fatal to bees. The following year Mapa did not collect strawberry samples.
Carrots were tested in four states in 2019 and showed 38% non-compliance, but the only sample from Bahia had problems and in Minas Gerais the irregularity rate was 67%. In 2020, Mapa collected carrot samples in 13 states, most of them within parameters, with the exception of Mato Grosso do Sul and Rio Grande do Sul, where the inadequacy was 34%.
Like strawberries, guava also showed irregularities in 2019, but did not enter the Mapa tests in 2020. There was 31% of guavas with irregular pesticide residues collected in the states of Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro.
Asked about the criteria used for monitoring, the Ministry reported that “since 2019 the PNCRC / Vegetal has been using increasingly prudent risk management tools based on parameters such as the risk associated with the product, the most consumed products of plant origin in Brazil (data IBGE), number of occurrences detected in previous years. All this is applied to statistical models with a 95% confidence level, which led to an increase in the number of samples to be collected for each product of plant origin. This has led to a decrease in the number of crops monitored each year, as the PNCRC / Vegetal tries to work with three-year cycles, with the monitoring of a greater number of sample products collected in the period “.
Tomatoes, known for their high pesticide levels, appeared in the 2019 Map survey with only 23% of their non-compliant samples. However, detailed data by state indicate that in Paraíba half of the tomatoes had irregularities and in Paraná it would be 67%. In the 2020 survey, tomatoes were tested in eleven states. In Mato Grosso do Sul no champion met the parameters and in Pernambuco, of the eight tested, five had problems. Among the pesticides found is acefate, which has been banned in Brazil since 2013 for some crops, including tomatoes. Acefate can lead to changes in the nervous system, leading to severe cases of depression, among other problems.
Researchers question food safety which aims for 100% compliance.
Of the 2,601 samples collected in the latest Mapa survey, 1,777 were monitored for pesticide residues, with 256 showing pesticides banned for that crop or above the allowable limit.
There are foods that respect pesticide residues 100%, such as rice, coffee and apples. However, according to Guilherme Albuquerque, this does not mean that there is no risk in consumption. “The limits accepted in Brazil are very different from those in other countries and the pesticides accepted here are often banned in the rest of the world. So what security is this? ” request.
Brazil, for example, allows ten times more residues of the herbicide glyphosate in coffee. This is what the Geographic atlas of pesticide use in Brazil and links with the European Union, by professor of the Faculty of Geography of the University of São Paulo Larissa Bombardi, who reports several discrepancies in the maximum limits of pesticide residues allowed in Brazil and the European Union. “The Mapa interprets the result as an indication that that production is safe, but it is an interpretation based on a rule of measurement that is not universally accepted,” Melgarejo emphasizes. “If Mapa had passed on its results to French or German specialists for analysis, the interpretation would be very different from what the Ministry presents as adequate,” says the agronomist.
Yumie Murakami, a pharmacist who is also a member of the Observatory on Pesticide Use and the Consequences for Human and Environmental Health of the UFPR, recalls that the interaction between pesticides of different foods was not considered. “It is not only important to know what is above the limit, but also what is below. The apple you eat may be within the milligram limits of acephate, but during the day you also ingest the paraquat found in bananas and the methamidophos in beans, ”she exemplifies.