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  • Writer's pictureFrancieli Iung Izolani

What is the Poison Bill Project and what are its risks?

Author: Francieli Iung Izolani

Translated by Henrique de Jesus dos Santos

This week, government representatives in Brazilian Congress began a dialogue with the opposition wing to put a "consensus text" on the so-called Poison Bill (n° 1.459/2022) to vote.

In order to emplace pressure on Congress to listen to civil society's warnings about the Poison Bill, The Ruptura signed the manifesto promoted by the "Permanent Campaign Against Agrotoxics and For Life" along with several other organisations and institutions.

The PL do Veneno (Poison Bill Project), known as such because it aims to make the use of agrotoxics in Brazil more flexible and is the opposite of 6.670/2016 Law that aims to approve the National Policy for the Reduction of agrotoxics. It is urgent and necessary to have public policies aimed at promoting agroecology, which includes encouraging organic food production.

What changes with the approval of the Poison Bill in Brazil?

The first significant change is concerning the name given to the poisons used in food production, rightly called "agrotoxics" since the enactment of the 1988 Magna Carta, which will once again be called "pesticides".

This term was used at the time of the Green Revolution, given the context of the 1960s, which encouraged and disseminated the use of agrochemicals in agri-food production as something good and necessary. Today, this change goes hand in hand with supporting the use of agrochemicals, although there are numerous forms of production WITHOUT agrochemicals, intending to mask and cover up the widely known harmfulness of these substances. Scientific research from all over the world - including the United States, the European Union and Brazil - has shown that the use of agrotoxics contaminates the environment (land, air and water), causes desertification and soil impoverishment, reduces biological diversity of animals and food species (combined use of agrotoxics with transgenics), poses risks to human health, as it causes cancer, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, ADHD syndrome, infertility, depression, chronic intoxication, acute intoxication, among others. What's more alarming: is the fact that this use of agrotoxics exposes THE WHOLE POPULATION, not just those who manage the crops, because agrotoxics residues, as well as contaminating groundwater and spreading through the air (some of them - the so-called drift), are present in food, and there's no point in washing them.

The second significant change concerns the competence to approve and release the agrotoxics.

Currently, it is needed MAPA, ANVISA, and IBAMA to work alongside, however, with the approval of the Poison Bill, the evaluation of new agrotoxics will no longer take into account the impacts on health and the environment and will be subject only to the Ministry of Agriculture and the economic interests of agribusiness. This will happen through the creation of the Unified Electronic Information, Petition, and Evaluation System (Sispa), coordinated by the Ministry of Agriculture.

With the withdrawal of power from government entities that are relevant to the control and promotion of public health in the area of agri-food production, the possibility of registering substances that have been proven to be carcinogenic and banned for a long time in various countries around the world, including the "developed" ones, is now allowed. In addition, the criterion of "acceptable levels" is now used, which represents total submission to coloniality, since it has already been widely proven that agrotoxics cause socio-environmental damage (to humans and nature in general), with no ground to talk about tolerance limits or safe levels for their use.

The third change concerns advertising

There is no longer any specific regulation on agrotoxics advertising.

The fourth serious change concerns the sale of agrotoxics

The sale of some agrotoxics without an agronomic prescription and in a preventive manner is now permitted, further favouring indiscriminate use.

The fifth very crucial change regards the objection and cancellation of agrotoxics registration

By repealing the Agrotoxics Bill, Bill 7.802/1989, the population (represented by social entities, political parties with representation in the National Congress, or consumer, environmental, and natural resources defence organisations) has been deprived of the possibility of demanding that the registration of an agrotoxic/product be challenged or cancelled on the pretext that it harms the environment, human health, and animals.

Tax exemptions and charge of fees for organic farming

While the population works almost four months of the year just to pay all the taxes they are charged, many of the agrotoxics that are used are tax-free. The higher the exemption, the higher the use…

According to Chamber News Agency (2022), the text approved by the deputies revokes all fees from the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama) and the National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa) related to the control and registration of agrotoxics and creates the Assessment and Registration Fee.

The amounts range from R$5,000 (special temporary registration and products formulated with copper, sulphur, and vegetable or mineral oils) to R$100,000 (new product).

Products for organic farming and those based on biological control agents will also have to pay a fee of R$30,000. Changes considered not relevant will be exempt from the fee.

The approval of the Poison Bill in the Chamber of Deputies on 9th February 2022

Even after years of discussion and lobbying by society against the approval of the Poison Bill, it was prioritised and its base text was approved by the Chamber of Deputies.

Of great interest to the ruling parties and the rural caucus, the Poison Bill was approved in less than 20 minutes of voting, with 301 votes in favour, 150 votes against, and 2 abstentions.

The Poison Bill was approved in the form of the substitute by the rapporteur, Mr Luiz Nihimori (PL-PR), and due to the changes approved by the members of parliament, this bill, which originated in the Senate, will return to that House for a new vote.

Points of the Poison Bill rejected in voting

According to the Chamber News Agency (2022), the following points were rejected:

- The Workers' Party's (PT) highlight intended to remove from the text the fixed deadlines for the conclusion of agrotoxics registration processes;

- The Workers' Party's amendment sought to remove from the text the temporary registration of products already in use in at least three OECD countries;

- An amendment by deputy Rodrigo Agostinho (PSB-SP) sought to prevent the registration of agrotoxics with substances that cause hormonal disorders and/or damage to the reproductive system or with teratogenic (mutation in the fetus), carcinogenic (induction of cancer) or mutagenic (induction of genetic mutations) characteristics;

- Psol’s highlight wanted to remove from the text the exclusivity of the registration of agrotoxics and their inspection by the Ministry of Agriculture;

- Deputy Rodrigo Agostinho's amendment sought to remove from the text the need for a "scientific basis" so that states, the Federal District, and municipalities can legislate on a supplementary nature on the use, production, consumption, trade, and storage of agrotoxics.

How did each party vote?

Here's an overview of the vote. We recommend you go deeper by visiting Carta Capital's website here.

Where can I find more information about the Poison Bill?

We recommend reading the text published on 10th February on the Conexão Planeta website, available here.

Where can I find more serious and proven information about the harms of agrotoxics?

We recommend reading the Dossier of the Brazilian Association of Collective Health, known as the Abrasco Dossier, as well as the recently published Dossier of the Permanent Campaign Against Agrotoxics and for Life, both available for free download on the Internet.

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