Recently, officials have prepared an order, which from 2022 they plan to ban the full-scale use of the insecticide chlorpyrifos in agricultural and food products. However, other equally dangerous chemicals will continue to be used.
From congenital pathologies to oncology
The substances with which the fields are processed are dangerous not only for animals and insects. They tend to accumulate in vegetables and other plants that we eat. With the constant use of such products, chemicals, and heavy metals accumulate in the human body.
According to official scientific research, chlorpyrifos, which was decided to be banned in Ukraine, causes fetal development disorders, decreased birth weight and head size, and autism. It is also the cause of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases in adulthood.
But there are other, even more scandalous chemicals. For example, glyphosate, the main component of the popular Round-Up herbicide in the market. Weeds are treated with glyphosate, but the plants we consume grow along with them. In March 2015, a group of experts from the International Agency for Research on Cancer WHO concluded that the use of glyphosate may contribute to the development of cancer in humans. However, the agency warned that there was insufficient evidence of such an effect of glyphosate.
Several years later, a number of researchers began to claim that this substance is capable of causing not only oncology, but also endocrine disorders, reproductive problems, and can also destroy hormones.
"A person becomes ill with cancer and does not know where this cancer came from. But everyone has cancer cells in the body. But when a certain substance begins to act on them, they begin to develop," said head of the department for control over the circulation of plant protection products of the Department of Phytosanitary Safety State Food and Consumer Services in the Lviv Region Yaroslav Lobodzets.
According to specialists from the Ukrainian Institute of Ecohygiene and Toxicology named after V.I. LI Medveda, the main source of the impact of glyphosate on the population is food. But it is capable of harming not only people who ate products grown with its use. The remains of the substance are found in surface waters, rainwater and air. During the field season, glyphosate and its degradation products are released into the environment outside the area of use.
Pesticides based on this substance are banned in more than ten countries of the world; now the EU is actively fighting against glyphosate. To date, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Italy, and the Netherlands have abandoned it. Germany will ban the use of a glyphosate herbicide from the end of 2023.
Another dangerous pesticide, atrazine, has been banned in Europe for several years due to its excellent ability to accumulate in water for years. A number of studies say that in addition to cancer and reproductive problems, this substance can cause Down syndrome, gastroschisis and other congenital diseases. Deputy Chairman of the organization "All-Ukrainian Agrarian Rada" Mykhailo Sokolov told that basically this drug is no longer used by Ukrainian farmers. Nevertheless, in the country, it is still officially allowed.
Another cheap and effective herbicide, acetochlor, was recognized as toxic in European countries more than ten years ago. Its use was banned in neighboring Belarus and Russia.
In Ukraine, only the uncontrolled use of pesticides is prohibited. After all, if unscrupulous farmers exceed their permissible concentration for a greater effect, pesticides become especially dangerous. But we will return to how Ukrainians adhere to this requirement.
Is it possible to refuse pesticides?
In 2019, the Cabinet of Ministers registered a draft resolution "On the prohibition of the import into the customs territory of Ukraine and the use of certain hazardous pesticides in Ukraine." It was assumed that the use of biological products could protect Ukrainians from the toxic effects of pesticides.
Head of the project of the public ecological movement "Ukraine against pesticides" Volodymyr Oleksiychuk believes that potatoes, cabbage and other vegetables and fruits can be grown at home without chemicals. In an industrial setting, this will take much more effort, but it is possible to limit the use of pesticides.
The possibility of replacing chemicals with more environmentally friendly ones is also confirmed by Yaroslav Lobodzets. However, such funds have a weaker effect. According to the official, if it is still possible to fight insects and rodents with biological preparations, then there is simply no analogue of glyphosate, a harmless agent against weeds.
What is then used in the EU countries, where glyphosate and neonicotinoids have been officially banned? The most paradoxical is that although formally European countries have indeed banned these substances, in fact, they continue to use them. The fact is that the substances are allowed to be used exclusively in closed soil and provided that there is no alternative to them.
Deputy Chairman of the All-Ukrainian Agrarian Council Sokolov emphasizes that it is impossible to feed all the people on the planet without using plant protection products, thanks to which the yield is growing. In addition, he is sure that it is not worth comparing the agrarian policy of Ukraine and the European Union.
Sokolov stresses that the EU, in principle, does not view agriculture as an industry that generates budget revenues. Consequently, the decline in agricultural production for European countries is not a problem. Moreover, sometimes it can even lead to cost savings.
"We have 40% of foreign exchange earnings and 10% of GDP comes from agriculture. For us, this industry is not subsidized, but a budget donor. The same is in the USA, Canada. Those countries where agriculture provides additional income and does not take away the total state support, conduct a more balanced policy," explained the representative of the interests of Ukrainian agrarians.
In addition, the ban on pesticides in Ukraine will provoke the opening of their black market, because drugs based on certain active ingredients will continue to be produced in other countries.
How farmers and their products are controlled
The State Service of Ukraine for Food Safety and Consumer Protection assures: if farmers or non-professional users adhere to technological requirements, regulations for the use of a pesticide, the correct dosage, then the impact on human health and the environment will be minimal. But not all Ukrainians are responsible: someone wants to enhance the effect of the pesticide.
"It happens, they write that 20 grams per kilogram of product is used, but this is a lie. You have to pour more in order to have a double effect," Vladyslav Sedik, First Deputy Chairman of the State Service of Ukraine for Food Safety and Consumer Protection, explained.
Products that are found to be in excess of the permissible dose of pesticides are removed from sale, and the violator faces a fine. However, markets and stores are checked for product quality not often and selectively: only once or twice a year, depending on the production of products. And during the quarantine period, checks are generally prohibited in many areas. Vladyslav Sedik explained that a number of enterprises are not working due to the coronavirus. Therefore, now an inspection can be carried out if citizens apply with a request to check this or that object.
And some citizens exceed the dose due to the inability to use the drug correctly. Natalia Cholovskaya, President of Lviv City NGO Ecoterra, explained to 112ua.tv that farms that work with pesticides must first undergo training. Today, 800 farms are registered in the Lviv region, but 280 thousand are private households. The latter are not controlled by anyone.
Moreover, inexperienced or unscrupulous farmers can use counterfeit drugs.
On falsified information about the danger is absent or limited, their effect is often unpredictable, and the damage caused is significant and long-term.
The beginning of the fight against counterfeit drugs in Ukraine has been laid. In the Verkhovna Rada, a bill № 4601 was registered, which proposes to increase the punishment for violation of legislation in the field of plant protection. Soon, the size of fines and terms of imprisonment may be increased for the manufacture, purchase, and sale of counterfeit goods, taking into account the degree of public danger of such violations.
Recently, another bill was developed, No. 5237, which proposes to improve the requirements for the labeling of pesticides and agrochemicals. The document proposes to introduce compulsory certification for pesticides. Based on its results, appropriate marks will be put on the package, bucket, and bag. They will determine whether it is possible to use pesticides during the summer of bees, during the daytime, etc. In the near future, they plan to consider it in the Rada.
At the same time, environmental expert Natalia Cholovska assured that the solution to the problem lies not only in the use of a particular drug but also in the agricultural system itself. It should be based on monitoring rivers for pollution by pesticides and other chemicals. If it is found that some area is too contaminated with pesticides, then in the future this area can be identified as sensitive and offer alternative types of agriculture there.
Now the MPs and officials are only trying to resolve the issue of pesticide use. This means that Ukrainians should rely only on the honesty of the producers themselves.