Europe’s Toxic Trade in Brazil

Deforestation, pollution, diseases… In Brazil, the massive use of pesticides has turned farming into a lawless activity. But Europe, a major exporter of these chemicals, is pretending to ignore this system, two directors denounce in this gripping documentary.

It is a vicious and toxic cycle that emphasizes Pesticides: European hypocrisy, the research conducted by Stenka Quillet and written by Anne-Vigna with Nicolas Glimois, aired Tuesday at 10.25 pm on Arte. Their demonstration, reasoned and rigorous, exposes the damaging consequences of an infernal circle linking Brazil to Europe. Because the South American giant has become an Eldorado for European producers of pesticides. Every year they sell almost 80,000 tons of substances whose use is banned in Europe. In exchange, Brazil exports to the Old Continent agricultural products worth almost 2.5 billion euros, foodstuffs with traces of pesticide residues. A paroxysmal example of globalization with disastrous consequences. For example, in the Brazilian villages, sandwiched between the vast agricultural exploitations, the workers and their families are victims of serious diseases. As for the water from half of Brazil’s cities, it is not drinkable. Drivers’ perspectives on this health and environmental scandal.

How did the idea for this research come about? Stenka Quillet It comes from the atlas published in 2017 by Larissa Bombardi, geographer of the University of São Paulo. She makes the connection between the export to Brazil of pesticides banned in Europe and the agricultural production method used in her country. A counter-intuitive but enlightening demonstration, underlining how much the chemical industry is dependent on agriculture and not the other way around. Because in order to sell and make money, pesticide producers need farmland to keep growing. Some areas the size of Belgium have been transformed to grow crops for export. The harvests are not used to feed the Brazilians, but mainly to produce soy that is sold in Europe!

Pesticides are found in astronomical doses in the water of a school regularly analyzed by Mato Grosso State University.

© Kino Presse/Kino/ARTE

We understand in your film how complicated it is to work on these topics in Brazil… Anne Vigna For questions related to ad revenue, the major Brazilian media outlets avoid research into the food industry. On the other hand, we have seen the appearance of many independent information sites on the Internet such as: Reporter Brazil Where Public body. They are especially interested in issues related to food. But their investigations are systematically denigrated. They are accused of manipulation or creating false information. A disturbing phenomenon has also emerged: attacks on scientists. They can no longer set foot in certain places. In the state of Mato Grosso, for example, the members of the small local research institute are personæ non gratæ. Yet they are the only ones who research pesticides. The geographer Larissa Mies Bombardi left Brazil after threats.

Let us also take the example of the British journalist Dom Philipps and the anthropologist Bruno Pereira, defenders of the Amazon, who were recently murdered. In Brazil, the delay in starting the search for the two men is said to be related to Dom Philipps asking the Brazilian president about what he intended to do with the Amazon. Jair Bolsonaro answered him: “You must first understand that the Amazon belongs to Brazil, it is not yours! †

“To sell and make money, pesticide producers need farmland that is getting bigger and bigger,” said director Stenka Quillet.

“To sell and make money, pesticide producers need farmland that is getting bigger and bigger,” said director Stenka Quillet.

Kino Press / Kino / ARTE GEIE

You specify in the film that fifty environmentalists are murdered in Brazil every year. How was the filming? SQ For the first time, I had to erase a sequence we recorded. One of our interlocutors, a man whose role was to apply pesticides in the state of Mato Grosso, withdrew after our interview. He chased us, at night, in the small town where we were. At one point he blocked our car with his. He threatened us. A local elected official came to support him and ordered us to delete the passage in question on pain of being transferred to the military police. We complied with this so as not to endanger the team on the ground and the scientists who spoke to us. In this corner of Mato Grosso lies the Wild West. Freedom of the press means nothing anymore.

Caught in the grip of sprawling farms, some farmers, such as Arnaldo Soares Borges, of the Landless Movement, are trying to propose an alternative culture model.

Caught in the grip of sprawling farms, some farmers, such as Arnaldo Soares Borges, of the Landless Movement, are trying to propose an alternative culture model.

© Kino Presse/Kino/ARTE

How do you explain this context? AV After the election of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in 2019, industrialists in the agricultural sector felt they were growing. Their economic weight has steadily increased. Just like their political importance. Today, the national group, which defends the interests of this industry, represents 50% of the seats in Parliament. New elections are scheduled for October and the tension is palpable as former President Luiz Inácio Lula could win. This would likely lead to a change in environmental concerns. Sign of this tension, drones commonly used to spread pesticides in the fields sprayed urine and feces on Lula’s supporters during a rally…

What state of mind are you in at the end of this survey? SQ Depressed and affected. We filmed children born with deformities or suffering from precocious puberty. Farm workers are sick. When we eat a grapefruit or other tropical fruit here, we have to think about the conditions in which it grew and how the people who produce it live. And ask politicians to take action.

To have

r Pesticides: European hypocrisy, Tuesday, July 5 at 10:25 PM on Arte.

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