Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food / A focus on Pesticides, their impact and Agro


The latest report by the Special Rapporteur on the right to food is a benchmark on the recognition of the current Agricultural context. Focusing on the toxic chemicals that are highly used and their impact on the environment, farmers and consumers alike, the report shows a way for alternatives as better agricultural practices such as agroecology.

Here are some extracts of the report that we at BeeLife find key for a better agricultural system.

5. Exposure to pesticides can have severe impacts on the enjoyment of human rights, in particular the right to adequate food, as well as the right to health. The right to food obligates States to implement protective measures and food safety requirements to ensure that food is safe, free from pesticides and qualitatively adequate. Furthermore, human rights standards require States to protect vulnerable groups, such as farm workers and agricultural communities, children and pregnant women from the impacts of pesticides.

7. Without or with minimal use of toxic chemicals, it is possible to produce healthier, nutrient-rich food, with higher yields in the longer term, without polluting and exhausting environmental resources.6 The solution requires a holistic approach to the right to adequate food that includes phasing out dangerous pesticides and enforcing an effective regulatory framework grounded on a human rights approach, coupled with a transition towards sustainable agricultural practices that take into account the challenges of resource scarcity and climate change.

8. Hazardous pesticides impose substantial costs on Governments and have catastrophic impacts on the environment, human health and society as a whole, implicating a number of human rights and putting certain groups at elevated risk of rights abuses.7

9. Few people are untouched by pesticide exposure. They may be exposed through food, water, air, or direct contact with pesticides or residues. However, given that most diseases are multi-causal, and bearing in mind that individuals tend to be exposed to a complex mixture of chemicals in their daily lives, establishing a direct causal link between exposure to pesticides and their effects can be a challenge for accountability and for victims seeking access to an effective remedy. Even so, persistent use of pesticides, in particular agrochemicals used in industrial farming, have been connected to a range of adverse health impacts, both at high and low exposure levels.8

15. Agricultural workers are routinely exposed to toxic pesticides via spray, drift or direct contact with treated crops or soil, from accidental spills or inadequate personal protective equipment. Even when following recommended safety precautions, those applying pesticides are subject to higher exposure levels. Families of agricultural workers are also vulnerable, as workers bring home pesticide residues on their skin, clothing and shoes.

-As evidence shows, the exposure to different toxic products from pesticides, insecticides and herbicides affects from acute to chronic toxicity in live beings such as bees. It is already clear that there is a constant presence of active substances used for the agricultural industry in citizens. "The evidence suggests that a significant proportion of the population could have glyphosate in their bodies –and it is not clear where it is coming from. Despite the fact that glyphosate is the world ́s best-sellingchemical herbicide and glyphosate-containing herbicides are the most widely-used herbicides in Europe, very little testing is done for glyphosate residues in food, feed, or water. Tests for glyphosate in the body do not take place at all". As Friends of Europe has already stated in their PR.-

25. Pregnant women who are exposed to pesticides are at higher risk of miscarriage, pre-term delivery and birth defects. Studies have regularly found a cocktail of pesticides in umbilical cords and first faeces of newborns, proving prenatal exposure.26 Exposure to pesticides can be transferred from either parent. The most critical period for exposure for the father is three months prior to conception, while maternal exposure is most dangerous from the month before conception through the first trimester of pregnancy.27 Recent evidence suggests that pesticide exposure by pregnant mothers leads to higher risk of childhood leukaemia and other cancers, autism and respiratory illnesses.28 For example, neurotoxic pesticides can cross the placental barrier and affect the developing nervous system of the fetus, while other toxic chemicals can adversely impact its undeveloped immune system.29

Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food A/HRC/34/48 24 January 2017

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