How do they poison us? Food security in the hands of multinationals

How do they poison us? Food security in the hands of multinationals

By Agroecological Studies Group (GEA)

40% of the vegetables consumed by a European citizen contain traces of pesticides and although most are below the authorized limits, evidence is beginning to accumulate that small doses over a long time can be more harmful than high doses of a single time

Obesity has reached the dimensions of a global epidemic. One thousand seven hundred million people are at high risk of developing diseases related to being overweight, such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases (1). In the European Union, it is estimated that, during the 1990s, 290,000 deaths of people over 15 years of age (7.7% of the total) were related to excess weight, 70% to cardiovascular diseases and 20% to cancer.

In Spain, 14.5% of the adult population is obese and 38.5% is overweight. Among the child and youth population (2 to 24 years of age), 13.9% are obese and 26.3% are overweight. In the age group between 6 and 12 years, the obesity rate is higher than in adults (16.1%), having tripled in just 10 years and being one of the highest in Europe. According to the International Diabetes Federation and the World Health Organization (WHO), overweight and obesity suffered by minors are increasingly linked to type 2 diabetes, considered adult diabetes because it requires an excess of permanent weight.

The growth of obesity and its derived diseases has to do with the sedentary lifestyle of urban life, but also with eating habits. It is about overeating but also the predominance of meats, fat, salt and sugar, to the detriment of bread, fish, legumes, fruits and vegetables. Fresh and home-cooked foods are gradually being replaced by industrial, processed, pre-cooked foods with preservatives and additives. In the diet of our children and young people, meat, industrial pastries, precooked foods, French fries, etc. are abused, full of sugars and saturated fats that increase palatality (2) and eliminate the feeling of satiety. The calories empty of nutrients and loaded with refined sugar that replace milk and other natural foods, are the cause of the current obesity epidemic. Skipping breakfast and not eating fruits and vegetables, while drinking soft drinks instead of water and eating sweets, damages health.

The WHO recommends, for a 2000 calorie diet (for an adult), that the proportion of sugar does not exceed 30-50 grams per day. However, the WHO does not inform the population that a can of Coca-Cola or other soft drinks contains 35 grams of sugar that, by itself, exceed the minimum dose. The American Academy of Pediatrics has warned of the risk of consuming sugary drinks. A study of the diet of the school population in the United States showed that an additional can of sugary drink increased the risk of childhood obesity by 60%. The body metabolizes up to 100 grams of sugar in the liver and 200 grams in the muscles. The rest turns into fat. The increase in fat cells is difficult to combat because calorie restriction to eliminate these cells could affect child development.

Children, adolescents and young people receive an avalanche of advertising pressures from junk food multinationals, especially McDonald and Coca-Cola. Nobody forces these companies to report the dangers that their products cause to health. The establishments and sales of these multinationals do not stop growing, at the same time as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases of our children.

Food globalization causes food insecurity: Hunger and junk food

In the first world diet, the intake of fats and meat is abused. All of this has consequences here, but also there. Hunger and junk food are sides of the same coin. The meat we eat comes from animals that are crammed and fed with feed. For their rapid fattening and to alleviate the consequences of a sick "life" (immobility and stress of stabled cattle) they are loaded with antibiotics and anabolics. The food industry obtains faster, more kilos of meat and cheaper, promoting a diet based on a high consumption of animal protein that makes us sick. Meanwhile, the fertile land in the countries of the South is dedicated to the production of cheap food for livestock instead of being used to produce plant foods for the population itself. The consequence is the expulsion of the peasants and indigenous inhabitants of these lands, forced to emigrate and crowd in the megalopolises of the south or north, which exploits them as cheap labor, denying them their human rights and expelling them when they are not necessary.

World meat production has increased fivefold in 50 years. The protein yield of a hectare of cereal is 5 times higher if it is used directly for human consumption than if it is used to fatten the cattle that provide us with meat. The growth in meat consumption also increases waste management problems.

We also abuse sugar. We are accustomed from childhood to sweets, as a reward, a means to entertain hunger or a substitute for food in the form of sweets, processed foods or soft drinks. Eating refined sugar decalcifies us, in addition to ingesting the chemicals necessary for bleaching it. In countries where sugarcane is grown, there is an exploitation of people and the cultivated soil. Companies are researching to find sweeteners and cheaper than sugar. At the same time, we abandon the consumption of fruits and vegetables that contain natural sugars with the necessary nutrients and minerals.

This diet, low in fiber, vegetables and grains, causes diabetes, cholesterol, coronary heart disease, cancer and hypertension, in the elderly and increasingly, in young people and children. Many of the activities of young people are sedentary, when physical exercise is essential for their development. A sedentary lifestyle favors obesity, because our body does not burn everything it has ingested and transforms it into fat.

The consumer habit has invaded the field of food, identifying through advertising, leisure and consumption and propagating an urban, unhealthy and nutrient-poor eating pattern. Lured with advertising images of happy families, funny young people and gifts, fast food chains attract lower-income social strata, who accept despicable products as food. Fast food chains, such as McDonald's, are detrimental to the health of children and adolescents, due to the enormous pressure they exert on their desires, causing the little ones to not distinguish between eating fun and associating in his imaginary, Mc Donald's spaces with places of happiness. They are future customers affiliated with junk food for life.

Eating diseases (anorexia, bulimia, obesity, etc.) do not affect everyone equally. They threaten social groups with less education and lower income. The obesity epidemic infects urban social groups, dependent on a garbage job and having difficulties paying their mortgage or rent. Their malnutrition is not due to lack of food, but because of its excess and harmfulness ...

The double language of the globalizing left

In the last 15 years, child and youth nutrition in the Spanish state has experienced an increase in sweets and soft drinks, dairy products and meats, and a symmetrical reduction in eggs, vegetables and fruits. This change in habits corresponds to the increase in obesity in children and adolescents and is due to the publicity of the food industry, with the collusion of the public powers.

Despite the alarm over diseases derived from food change, little is being done from the institutions. The publicity in favor of junk food, soft drinks, ice cream and sweets, that food multinationals launch on children and the general population is freely deployed without legal or social obstacles. This explains the proliferation of fast food establishments and vending of drinks and sweets, even in educational centers.

The Spanish NAOS Strategy (3) was presented in 2005 to combat obesity. But this political initiative does not address the responsibility of the multinationals that produce it. On the contrary, this responsibility is expressly denied: “it is important to highlight that sedentary lifestyle and energy expenditure deficit, caused by the new behavior patterns and habits of our modern society, play a main role in the increase in obesity and I am overweight and the Spanish food and beverage industry, or specific food products or their advertising cannot be held responsible for this problem ”.

The Government uses the NAOS Strategy to protect the economic interests of companies responsible for foodborne illness. It does not evaluate the damage that the penetration of the consumption of junk food and soft drinks produces among the population, in particular in children and adolescents. It does not warn about the growing future dangers of this consumer model. It does not promote critical awareness of these products in the population as a whole, because that would pit it against multinationals. It does not prohibit its sale in schools, as requested by the Spanish Society for the Study of Obesity and the Spanish Society of Endocrinology and Nutrition. The NAOS Strategy encourages "Voluntary Codes of Good Conduct" for food and beverage companies that only serve to smooth over the most scandalous aspects of their television advertising aimed especially at children under 12 years of age. It establishes Agreements with the multinationals of junk food so that they wash their image, showing them as benefactors of the most disadvantaged and through campaigns that encourage sports, they remind us, cynically, of the benefits of a healthy diet, while, in these same campaigns, hide from us the damage that their products cause to our health.

Responsible agroecological consumption as an alternative

The adoption in our daily lives of dietary guidelines that reconcile healthy eating with critical and responsible consumption is usually considered an individual matter. If we base our diet on fruits, vegetables, legumes, cereals and honey and reduce the consumption of meat, we will cover the sugar and protein needs of our body, eliminating fast food and industrial products from our consumption, which benefit multinationals of food. If we also buy directly from the small local farmers who strive to cultivate without chemicals, we are helping them not to pollute and countering the logic of economic globalization that condemns them to disappear.

This change in behavior is necessary, but we cannot face an increasingly important social problem in childhood and adolescence in rich countries (childhood obesity, sedentary lifestyle, and individualistic and self-injurious consumerism) as if it were a private problem. It is a political and social problem, caused by the food model driven by modernization and widespread by globalization. For this reason, it is essential to educate, from school, in another type of consumption: a healthy consumption, rejecting the industrial production of food with chemical and transgenic products; critical consumption in the face of waste, individualism, pollution and the criminal monopoly of food production and distribution in the hands of multinationals; responsible consumption and solidarity with the situation of small farmers and field workers; and powerful consumption to defend food security and regain a reciprocal relationship between the countryside and the city, the north and the south, natives and immigrants.

The fight for an "optimal weight for life" must begin from childhood. But our children, victims of publicity manipulation, cannot do it alone. Although we are also victims of such manipulation, we can. Changes in the daily diet are the starting point. It is urgent to reduce the intake of "fast" carbohydrates from sugar and refined grains, replacing them with "slow" carbohydrates from fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Industrial sugary soft drinks, including colas, which contain fructose, cheaper and more harmful than refined sugar, should be replaced by natural juices or water. Fats should be limited, especially those of animal origin, being replaced by olive oil and nuts.

Responsible consumer networks in cities must grow in dialogue with agroecological producers who, without our cooperation, are forced to abandon organic production or surrender, despite themselves, to Carrefour and others around them. . Commit to responsible consumption projects, promote food education and carry out activities with children and adults, to promote the consumption of organic food. The proliferation of responsible consumers and farmers will put the necessary force to prevent the advertising abuses of multinationals that condition our children to acquire unhealthy eating habits.

The precautionary principle (4) in the hands of the agrochemical multinationals (5).

At the beginning of the nineties, the European Union (EU) initiated, through Directive 91/414, a review process of authorized pesticides, many of which had come onto the market without detailed studies of their toxic effects on people. , animals and plants. They even continued to be used, sometimes with suspicion, others with evidence of their damage, without evaluating the toxicological impact on human health and ecotoxicological impact on the health of the ecosystem. (6)

This review began after decades of accumulating evidence on the harm of pesticides: allergies and irritation of the respiratory tract, irreversible sequelae in the nervous, endocrine and immune systems, cancer of various types and lifelong intolerance to the presence of chemicals , etc. Following pressure, worldwide, from various organizations (7) that are documenting such tests and demanding the responsibility of companies and governments, the European legislation on pesticides was revised, initiating, in parallel, a program of analysis of the substances In use.

In these years it was already known that exposure to pesticides affects not only the people who apply them in the field and in the disinfection of buildings, but also the rest of the exposed workers, their families, neighbors and the general population. , including children sired after contact or ingestion of the pesticide (8). It is also known that babies, children, adolescents, the elderly, the sick, pregnant women or women exposed for a time before pregnancy and male parents are especially sensitive, not only due to sterility or reduction of sperm, but also due to the transfer to their offspring of harms associated with pesticide exposure. Damage occurs even at lower doses than authorized (9). The factors that aggravate the risk have to do with the physical conditions of the person: crucial stages in hormonal development, a higher intake in proportion to weight -in childhood, especially in the youngest-, a state of weakness or previous illness ; but also with the prolonged use of an increasing number, in quantity and diversity, of pesticidal substances throughout the planet and for more than 50 years, whose extension and accumulation in water, air, soil and fatty tissues of animals and beings humans, constitutes a generalized pollution situation to which new emissions are contributed every year and at an increasing level (10).

But the proof is not always possible. Cause-effect relationships for acute poisoning after poisoning or direct exposure are easily identifiable because they occur immediately or within a few hours. It is more difficult to demonstrate the appearance of a disorder or disease caused by chronic intoxication, due to several years of professional contact (over a prolonged period or throughout life). Even more difficult is to prove that it is due to having remained, incidentally or recurrently, in enclosed garden spaces that have been treated. It is equally or more complicated to prove that it has been caused by the consumption of food and water contaminated by pesticides, even below the authorized limits. Years can pass between exposure and the onset of the disease. This is the most common situation in cases of inadvertent, chronic exposure, food contamination, exposure of the parents before conception or of the mother during pregnancy or ingestion through breastfeeding. The cases of illness or death have to be multiplied so that a higher than normal rate is observed and someone begins to investigate. Sometimes the relationship is demonstrated, but the results are not significant and are rejected from a scientific standpoint.

The evidentiary difficulty between the cause and its effect makes it easier for pesticide-producing companies not only to avoid their responsibility when they cause real damage, but to pressure administrations to prevent them from prohibiting their exposure and accumulation. These issues are not considered when calculating the maximum authorized production limits or, at least, they are authorized "critical uses" (11). Although the European Commission prides itself on having introduced the precautionary principle into the letter of the Directive, the fact is that, in practice, it is conspicuous by its absence. (12)

The review process for all pesticides authorized and in use before 1992, contemplated an initial horizon of 12 years. This term has been exceeded and extended to 2008. Initially and until 2001, 834 existing pesticides were counted, which were classified in 4 lists according to their use and danger. By April 2005, the number had risen to 984 with no explanation in follow-up reports.

Lists 1 and 2 (with 90 and 149 substances respectively) contained the pesticides of greatest concern, the most widely used, or those for which the industry claimed to be able to quickly provide dossiers containing its own toxicity and ecotoxicity assessment. The review of these pesticides should have been finalized in 2003. But in March 2006, there were still 11 substances pending completion of the evaluation on the highest priority list and 50 on the second list. The 3rd and 4th list jobs are even further behind.

This means that such substances continue to be used, even when they should have been banned. This is the case of endosulfan, considered a powerful endocrine disruptor (13) and that accumulates in the soil, air, greenhouse plastics, water and food, passing into the blood and fatty tissues. The relationship of endosulfan with breast cancer and with malformations in the male reproductive system in exposed children and babies has been widely documented (14). Also in Spain, one of the main consumers of endosulfan in the EU. (15) These investigations should have been sufficient to ban endosulfan in order to prevent new cases and protect the health of the population.

The first Commission report (16) on the review of existing substances, foresaw the recall of some 500 substances. However, until March 2006 (17) only 370 had been withdrawn, of which around twenty have obtained authorization for "essential uses". With full authorization, some substances of very concern are listed. This is the case of the herbicide Paraquat (18). It is a highly toxic product (19). Since 1985, the PAN Network has waged a campaign to spread the word about the dangers of continuing to use the 12 most toxic pesticides, the so-called "dirty dozen", which seeks to ban such substances. In 2002, a specific campaign was started for this pesticide, "STOP Paraquat", which conditioned the total ban or restricted use in 13 countries, 4 of them members of the EU (20). In spite of everything, the EU gave a boost to this pesticide at the end of 2003. As in the case of most GMO authorizations, the decision was highly controversial (21) and the contrary argument from Sweden, with the support of Finland , Luxembourg and Denmark were not taken into account. (22) The authorization requires protective precautions for operators, economically costly and impossible to comply with in case of high temperatures, and an annual assessment of damage to workers and terrestrial fauna in the areas where it applies (23). That is, it recognizes the danger, but instead of avoiding it, applying the precautionary principle, it accepts the conditions of the company (Sygenta) and subordinates the protection of the health of workers and the environment to the economic interests of the agrochemical industry. In addition, the authorization in the EU has neutralized the positive effects of awareness campaigns, slowing down the process of banning paraquat in southern countries, despite the impossibility of adopting the levels of protection for workers from rich countries.

The European Parliament, in its plenary session on 1/13/09, approved a new regulation on pesticides, which replaces Directive 91/414. This text establishes a new framework that will regulate the commercialization and sustainable use of pesticides in the European Union in the coming years.

The criteria adopted will mean “the progressive withdrawal in the next decade of those substances with the worst toxicological and environmental profile, establishing more rigid rules when authorizing the use of phytosanitary products and the use of pesticides in the field, prohibiting their use near parks, schools, hospitals or rivers and aerial spraying ”,…“ except for limited exceptions ”that the national authorities will have to authorize, establishing“ mechanisms to avoid the withdrawal of those toxic substances for which there are no alternatives until these are develop ”and guarantees to avoid an“ insurmountable decline for the producing sector of the tools that it currently has to fight against pests. ”That is, as expected, a new postponement and good intentions that must be ratified by the states , as long as they do not harm multinationals (24).

Ultimately, the EU is not applying the precautionary principle to protect the population and the environment from the negative effects of pesticides. Its revision program, again postponed, is a mask to continue acting for the benefit of the chemical industry. Not all the most dangerous and proven substances are prohibited. Those on which there are studies that indicate their dangerousness are not suspended, although they do not reach scientific significance, until they demonstrate their harmlessness, as should be done in exercise of the precautionary principle. Bans are sometimes simulations because they continue to be used in the form of "essential uses." Since 1992, the inclusion of a hundred new pesticides has been requested to replace the previous ones and, according to the European Environment Agency, they are "more toxic, although more specific and more effective" (until new resistance of the pests reduce their effectiveness). (25)

Pest control is not a problem reducible to chemistry because it is agroecological. Pests and diseases are the result of unbalanced agrosystems. The use of large amounts of broad spectrum pesticides ends up failing and creating new problems. The best way to combat pests is to restore the balance of agrosystems and the maintenance of biodiversity.

On the other hand, the EU, supported by the governments, downplays the importance of contamination by pesticides in food, despite making periodic controls. "Of every 100 vegetables consumed by a European citizen, 60 are completely clean of pesticides, 36 have residues in doses lower than the maximum tolerated and 4 are contaminated above these doses (26). 40% contain residues and although most of them are below the authorized limits, evidence is beginning to accumulate that small doses over a long time can be more harmful than high doses at one time. In turn, a balanced diet, with high consumption of fruits, vegetables and cereals, would contain pesticide levels higher than those recommended according to a study carried out in Barcelona through a thousand samples collected in shops.


More information about the campaign at:

<1> International Obesity Task Force: International Obesity Task Force

<2> Palatality is the property that a food is pleasant to the palate. Industrial food investigates and produces chemical substances to achieve this effect in children and elderly people infantilized by advertising and ignorance.

<3> NAOS: Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity Prevention

<4> Precautionary principle: it supposes that the use of any technology or the authorization of any food product shows that they do not constitute any risk, present or future.

<5> Source: Galindo, Pilar (2006) “Globalization against food security and sovereignty”. In VV.AA “What is that strawberry doing on your table!”. P. 141-180. Ed. Dreamcatcher, SOC, Southern Autonomy, Office of Social Rights and CAES. Seville.

<6> While in the group of chemical substances, the Commission recognizes, with figures, the scarce evaluation of the risks, in the review of pesticides there is absolute silence and all the relevant information published appears in English, preventing the public access to such information.

<7> We highlight the Alliance for Pesticide Action, known as PAN (Perticide Action Network) and especially its Latin American version, RAP-AL (Pesticide Action Network and its alternatives in Latin America), with abundant information in Spanish in its web space

<8> According to Professor Ana Mª García, from the Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health of the University of Valencia, in the surroundings of Albufera de Valencia and as a result of aerial spraying for citrus fruits, organophosphate pesticides have been found in the blood of the inhabitants of the area. And he continues, "chronic neurological diseases have been described due to sustained exposure to these pesticides and also long-term sequelae after acute poisoning" (El País, "Pesticides in fruits and vegetables" 8-2-05)

<9> The maximum limits of residues authorized in food in drinking water do not guarantee the absence of risk for several reasons: 1) because the recommended daily dose amount has been questioned when pesticides that cause hormonal disruptions appear -see below-, in doses much lower than legal ones; 2) because the doses are calculated for adult and healthy men, who admit higher levels than sick people, women and children; 3) because the combination of exposure to various chemicals, the period of exposure and their accumulation must be taken into account. A legal dose may not be harmful for a short season, but the effect may vary if it is prolonged or if the individual has his whole life ahead of him - cancer cases - and develop 10 or 15 years later. 4) because, in relation to residues in food, it depends on the diet. A food that is consumed little is not the same as if it is part of the daily diet and is eaten in significant quantities. These issues are not considered when calculating the maximum authorized limits.

<10> A study completed by a team of researchers from the Ontario College of Family Physicians (Canada-2004) and based on a review of the scientific literature produced worldwide and in the last 10 years, on the relationship between pesticides and various types of cancer, genetic malformations, endocrine, neurological and mental system disorders, reveals that the use of pesticides is causing a greater number of patients with these ailments, reducing the life expectancy of the population and a healthy life. In the review, they have discriminated both the scientific validity and the statistical significance of the findings, highlighting those prospective studies on a large sample and long-term follow-up. This discrimination gives greater rigor to their conclusions. In most cases, the existence of the disease is produced by the profession itself or that of their parents, but it concludes that transmission by environmental or food exposure has been less studied and its evaluation is more difficult. Pone especial énfasis en los daños sobre la infancia y adolescencia, precisamente por su vulnerabilidad y mayor probabilidad de desarrollar la enfermedad a lo largo de su vida. En aquellas enfermedades donde las investigaciones han sido capaces de demostrar una mayor tasa de aparición ante la exposición a pesticidas -diversos cánceres, Linfoma-No-Hodking y leucemia-, se pronuncian a favor de evitar totalmente la exposición de la población en general, lo que significa prohibir su uso o reducirlo a situaciones muy excepcionales.

<11> Se emplea este término para seguir autorizando el uso de sustancias de probada peligrosidad, argumentando que no existe otra forma posible de resolver el problema para el que ha sido diseñado. Por ejemplo, el uso del bromuro de metilo en la desinfección de suelos para la producción de fresa. Existen otras alternativas, incluso sin variar el modelo intensivo de producción (como la solarización para evitar los hongos en el suelo). Además, conviene plantearse la causa del uso de pesticidas en la forma industrial de producción de alimentos, cuyos métodos destruyen cualquier defensa natural del suelo, plantas y animales ante las enfermedades o la competencia con otros seres vivos. La alta patogenicidad del virus de la gripe aviar es un buen ejemplo. El hacinamiento provoca la bajada del sistema inmunitario y la enfermedad penetra en la fábrica. Un caldo de cultivo favorecido por la densidad y cantidad de animales, propaga más rápidamente la enfermedad y el virus encuentra las condiciones para mutar y hacerse más virulento. Las aves migratorias y de corral no propagan la enfermedad, son sólo sus víctimas. Sin embargo, son perseguidas y encerradas, mientras nadie parece preocuparse por lo que pasa dentro de las factorías de pollos. Cuando no se impugna el modelo industrial, todas las soluciones forman parte del problema.

<12> Esta directiva fue uno de los primeros actos legislativos en contar tanto con el principio de subsidiariedad, como con el principio de precaución. Colocó explícitamente la protección de la salud humana y del medio ambiente por encima de las necesidades de la producción agraria." Informe de la Comisión al Parlamento y al Consejo COM/2001/0444 final

<13> En palabras de Nicolás Olea; "El término disruptor endocrino sirve, en la actualidad, para definir a cualquier compuesto químico, contaminante medio ambiental que, una vez incorporado a un organismo vivo, afecta al equilibrio hormonal. " Extraído de su "Informe Agricultura y salud". Nicolás Olea es catedrático de medicina interna de la Universidad de Granada y Jefe de la Unidad de Radiología del Hospital Clínico de Granada. En definitiva, la disrupción hormonal provoca alteraciones que desequilibran el funcionamiento del sistema endocrino y, durante el embarazo y en edades cruciales, pueden provocar malformaciones genéticas y perjudicar el normal desarrollo del aparato reproductivo.

<14> Citamos sólo un estudio realizado en España "Factores de riesgo de criptorquidia", a cargo de la Dra. Maria Teresa Rueda Domingo, del Departamento de Medicina Preventiva y Salud Pública, de la Facultad de Medicina de Granada y publicado en la Gaceta Sanitaria en 2001. En dicho estudio realizado a niños nacidos en el Hospital Universitario San Cecilio de Granada, entre 1992 y 1999, se documenta la influencia del lugar de residencia y la profesión de los padres para este trastorno -dificultad de descenso testicular- en los bebes varones que puede producir esterilidad y cáncer de testículos en la edad adulta. Extraído déla página el 16/1/2001.

<15> Nicolás Olea informa de la persistencia de endosulfan en los plásticos de los invernaderos almerienses, en las aguas de los ríos andaluces, en el aire del Pirineo -por la proximidad a la industria productora- y en la sangre y los tejidos grasos de los niños en Murcia. Esta contaminación se relaciona, en diversos estudios, con el cáncer de mama y la dificultad de descenso testicular de bebes varones según el citado Informe Agricultura y Salud.

<16> Informe de la Comisión al Parlamento y al Consejo COM/2001/0444 Final 7

<17> Para el conjunto de sustancias existentes y las nuevas, empleamos los datos del informe de abril de 2005, aunque ha habido posteriores modificaciones.

<18> Paracuat lleva utilizándose más de 60 años en más de 120 países. Es un herbicida considerado entre los 12 más tóxicos ya en los años ochenta. En la terminología fitosanitaria se le califica como de amplio espectro y acción rápida. Se emplea para eliminar hierbas porque destruye el tejido verde de estas plantas por contacto. Colapsa la estructura de sus células, alterando la fotosíntesis y provoca con ello la desecación de la planta. Se aplica en más de 50 cultivos y para controlar hierbas en áreas no cultivadas. Se usa principalmente en cultivos de maíz, orquídeas, soja, arroz, hortalizas, algodón y palma {de aceite). A pesar de ser uno de los herbicidas más tóxicos es el tercero más usado en todo el mundo. Syngenta es la multinacional que lo comercializa bajo el nombre comercial de GRAMOXONE. Sus ventas anuales se estiman en 25.000 toneladas, vendidas el 70% en países "pobres". Actualmente Syngenta promociona Gramoxone para tratar las supermalezas que no pueden ser eliminadas con glifosato por haber desarrollado resistencia a este herbicida a partir del cultivo de soja transgénica de Monsanto (cuya propiedad es la resistencia al glifosato).

<19> Clasificado como moderado por ingesta oral, pero alto por inhalación, según los estudios de toxicidad existentes. 17 mg/kg pueden matar a una persona. La muerte por envenenamiento puede ocurrir hasta un mes después, lo que agrava el sufrimiento. No existe antídoto. También puede provocar: daños irreversibles en pulmones, corazón, riñones, glándulas adrenales, sistema nervioso central, músculos y bazo; problemas agudos y crónicos: dermatitis severa, quemaduras de 2º grado, hemorragias nasales, taquicardias, fallos renales y respiratorios. Se asocia con defectos reproductivos y de desarrollo, cáncer de piel y parkinson.

<20> Está prohibido en Finlandia (1986), Austria (1993), Suecia (1993) y Dinamarca (1995). Alemania restringió su uso en 1993 y Hungría en 1991.

<21> Se aplazó la decisión en 4 ocasiones en el Comité Permanente de la Cadena Alimentaria y Salud Animal y su aprobación se hizo por una mayoría cualificada que daba un escaso margen de conformidad (con 16 votos en contra y 5 abstenciones, el 3-10-2003).

<22> Suecia emitió el siguiente voto particular: "La inclusión de paraquat en el anexo 1 de la directiva 91/414 en nuestra opinión no sigue el principio de precaución. Es una sustancia extremadamente peligrosa que puede causar daños severos e irreversibles en humanos. Tanto los modelos de exposición simulados como los estudios de campo indican un margen de seguridad inaceptablemente bajo. Debido a la toxicidad característica del paraquat, los accidentes podrían tener por resultado, daños fatales que no pueden ser contrarrestados con ningún antídoto conocido (…) somos de la opinión de que hay una responsabilidad global, tenemos en cuenta el resultado de su uso en los países en desarrollo y las señales contradictorias que una inclusión de esta sustancia podría dar".

<23> Directiva 2003/112/CE. D.O.C.E L 321 de 6-12-2003

<24> Fuente: nota de prensa del Ministerios de Agricultura, Medio Rural y Marino (13/1/09) y (9/2/09)

<25> EEA: Environmental Signáis 2000, Copenhague, febrero 2000, cap 6 "agriculture"

<26> El País, 8-2-05.

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