El Salvador has voted to ban glyphosate (RoundUp), the pesticide that most GM crops are designed to be grown with, along with 52 other chemicals.
With 45 votes in favor, members of the FMLN, Unidos por El salvador and GANA approved the amendment of a Law on the control of pesticides, fertilizers and products for agricultural use, which allows the prohibition of 53 chemicals in El Salvador.
Among the list of the 53 chemicals are Paraquat, Glyphosate and Endosulfan, which caused controversy among right-wing deputies. Deputy Mario Ponce, of the Alianza Republicana Nacionalista (ARENA) party, opposed these substances being on the list, however, he did not have the support of other MPs.
Nery Diaz, deputy of the Frente Farabundo Martí party (FMLN) defended the opinion on the grounds that paraquat is related to an increase in renal diseases.
Protecting the Health of the Salvadoran People
During the period 2007-2011 a total of 8,159 people were reported to the health system of being poisoned by pesticides, some as young as 10 years of age, for both sexes and who mainly covered the rural population.
With a view to protecting the health of the Salvadoran people and also to promote healthy agricultural production practices, the Legislative Assembly passed amendments to two laws to regulate the production, prohibition, trading, distribution, import, export and use of pesticides and fertilizers in agricultural crops.
These reforms specifically affect the Control of Pesticides, Fertilizers and Products for Agricultural Use Act and the Plant and Animal Health Act. These yet-to-be-adopted reforms prohibit the use of 53 pesticides and fertilizers which are formulated using heavy metals or metalloids; several of these will need to be replaced within an absolute term of one year, while others will be replaced within two years. Among the pesticides that will be legally ban are endosulfan, paraquat, glifosato, clorpirifos, and metamidofos.
The ban was declared following social media coverage and a huge public outcry regarding the high number of deaths and cases of chronic kidney failure - which is the fifth leading cause of death nationwide in people over age 19, the second leading cause of death in males, and farm workers are significantly affected. This is according to the Ministry of Health, as quoted by the Committee on the Environment and Climate Change. Most patients with this illness do not present the traditional causes attributed to it in most other countries, such as diabetes mellitus or high blood pressure. On the other hand, these patients do present diagnoses associated with toxic substances used in environmental and agricultural occupations, among which are: the misuse and lack of protection from agrochemicals including no occupational health precautions, aerial spraying in residential areas, the presence of chemicals and heavy metals (cadmium and arsenic) in both surface water and groundwater - wells and deposits, and working long hours in high temperatures with intense physical activity and insufficient hydration, according to the Ministry of Health of El Salvador and who were highlighted in the report in favor of banning pesticides.
One to Two Years for finding Replacements
The law states that there will be a maximum of one year from the effective date of the approved reforms to replace the use of chemicals such as methyl parathion, paraquat, endosulfan, methamidophos, methomyl, and Hedonal. Two years are given for the following pesticides: Latigo, Carbofuran, Aldicarb, Glyphosate and blindage. The regulation of these chemicals was incorporated into the Act on the recommendation of the Ministry of Public Health.
To replace these, the Ministry of Agriculture will be in charge of looking for alternatives, and, in conjunction with the Ministry of Health, will form a technical committee to review, register, authorize and prohibit pesticides and fertilizers, in accordance with regional and countrywide considerations and international standards.
Regarding the penalties for failing to comply with the law, there are fines ranging from 100 to 10000 time the minimum monthly wage of trade, industry and service sector workers.
Opposition from the Chemical Companies
Predictably, protests have been raised by the GM lobby group CropLife, which is scaremongering about losses of up to 60% in crop production if the chemicals are banned. CropLife is funded by the big GM companies, including Monsanto.
During the discussion for the approval of the decree, representatives expressed that these products are necessary to combat coffee blight and other pests that gravely affect crops. Similarly, the right affirmed that prohibiting these products will affect the small farmers the most, an argument that the Representative explained to be false.