The issue of pesticides and their alternatives remains a central health, agricultural and environmental topic hotly debated in Europe and across the world. We are all exposed to pesticides and agrochemicals directly or indirectly simply through our food, water, air and house and garden products. Pesticides have serious impacts on our environment and our health, and vulnerable groups such as pregnant women and children are especially are at risk, but alternatives do exist.
So from March 20-30, for the eighth year in the row, the Pesticide Action Week is inviting the public to get better informed on the issue through hundreds of manifestations: conferences, panel discussions, film shows, workshops, field trips, symbolic marches, open farms, and exhibitions across Europe and Africa. Slow Food convivia are also getting involved, with the Tours-Val de Loire Convivium in France holding a march and the Languedoc, Roussillon and Narbonne Convivia organizing a week of debates, visits to producers and film screenings.
The issue of pesticides has been a theme in films and books in recent years. One such is Our Daily Poison, a book and documentary of the same name by Marie-Monique Robin, journalist, writer and a documentary filmmaker who earned her reputation as the author of The World According to Monsanto. Our Daily Poison is the result of a long research process from many sources: citations of previous research; archive documents obtained from lawyers, NGOs, experts and private citizens; as well as information from a enormous number of interviews and meetings from across 10 countries.
The work uncovers the hidden dangers in our daily food, recounting numerous cases of farmers who suffer from diseases as a consequence of excessive exposure to pollutants, the high number of children that developed diseases even before birth, and a sharp increase of cancer patients that cannot be explained simply by a higher longevity or tobacco use.
Cancer is actually a “disease of civilization,” says Robin, recalling many previous works such as Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, a work that Robin considers still up-to-date 50 years after its first edition. “While chemical agriculture was conquering the world, for the first time a scientist dared to discuss the agro-industrial system, a model that was supposed to grant universal affluence and wellbeing: Carson has systematically exposed the damages caused by “elixirs of death” to wildlife but also to human beings,” she says.
Fifty years on from the publication of the earliest works on the subject, the diseases of civilization increased, as well as the environmental input of pesticides, fungicides and herbicides. Furthermore, the agro-industrial business has sharpened its knives, financing research to advantage of its vested interests and exerting influence over decision makers.