Evaluating the Socio-Environmental Costs of Increased Pesticide Use in Brazil

Evaluating the Socio-Environmental Costs of Increased Pesticide Use in Brazil

Brazil is one of the largest consumers of pesticides in the world. In fact, according to data provided by the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA), Brazil’s consumption of pesticides is rapidly increasing with roughly 162,000 tons of pesticides used in 2000 compared to the roughly 549,000 tons used in 2018. 

Proponents of pesticides advocate for the use of agrochemicals as a means of increasing agricultural productivity and maximizing crop yields. However, while pesticides make crops more resistant to pests and other diseases, they also pose serious risks to human health, as well as to the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems in which they are applied. To better understand the risks posed by the increased use of pesticides in agriculture and farming, Conservation Strategy Fund (CSF) partnered with the Brazilian Federal Public Prosecutor's Office (MPF) to conduct an analysis on the social and environmental consequences of increased pesticide use across Brazil.

In our study, the “Social and Environmental Costs of Pesticides and Valuation of Its Impacts,” CSF found that in 2018 alone, the potential costs for pesticide use in Brazil was more than 3 billion reais (BRL). This figure includes the estimated health costs from acute pesticide poisoning and the increased risks of cancer, as well as the loss of critical biodiversity, particularly to native bee populations and the resulting loss in pollination. These estimates are alarming in that they demonstrate the true costs of pesticide use to local communities and ecosystems, providing support for the MPF to potentially pursue legal action against pesticide users and secure financial compensation for those disproportionately impacted by pesticide use in the future.

Right now, the government provides 10 billion reais (BRL) annually in tax exemptions related to pesticide use and there is considerable pressure to ease the legal restrictions governing pesticides even further. Using CSF’s analysis, the MPF can now use these estimates to argue for stricter regulations of pesticide use nationwide and make the economic case for financial compensation if pesticides are used indiscriminately. Understanding the impact that pesticides have on our communities and ecosystems provides the first step to further actions, including transitioning to agro-ecological production models, implementing use-control policies, and ending subsidies for pesticides. It is our hope that with our analysis, the MPF can now use this information to safeguard Brazilian farmland and farm communities from further harm.

To learn more about CSF’s research, please read the full discussion paper (in Portuguese) here, and watch our video (in Portuguese) here.