Despite measures taken on paper in recent years to minimize health and environmental risks associated with the use of pesticides and other agrochemicals, the Costa Rican government’s real control over such use is “weak,” according to a recent report by the Comptroller General of the Republic.
The Comptroller has given the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG) until June 30 to reveal “reliable data” regarding the levels of pesticide residues on crops, the daily La Nación reported.
The report also labels weak the ministry’s control over the types of agrochemicals imported and the quantity used on crops.
A year ago, the Comptroller also concluded Costa Ricans eat various vegetables, including cucumbers, carrots, lettuce, tomatoes and bell peppers, that have higher concentrations of chemicals than is safe for human consumption. Since then, the Agriculture Ministry has taken little action to correct the situation, and now the Comptroller says disobedience of the latest report could result in the suspension or firing of functionaries at fault, La Nación reported.
The Comptroller’s report concludes that farmers have gone from using 4,000 tons of pesticides in 1990 to 10,000 tons of pesticides in 2002; furthermore, pesticides are increasingly toxic and a greater health risk.
Jesús Hernández, new director of the Ministry’s Department of Plant and Animal Health, told La Nación the department will comply with the order, and by June 30 a report of the chemical residues found on fruits and vegetables will be available on the Ministry’s Web site (www.mag.go.cr).
The Comptroller’s report also criticized the ministries of Agriculture, Environment and Health for failing to protect the environment from contamination by pesticides. It requires the Ministry of Health to define by April 30 a list of pesticides that should be prohibited or restricted.
Environmentalist Marco Machore, who has been a vocal opponent of unrestricted pesticide use – particularly aerial application on banana plantations, said he is satisfied with the report.
“The management of pesticides by the state has been irresponsible; they have left the multinationals to be free to do what they want. The Comptroller has alerted the public to what is happening, and we shouldn’t let this opportunity pass,” said Machore, who has filed a lawsuit before the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV) to change aerial fumigation rules.