The southern city of Florianópolis will be the first Brazilian city to ban pesticides within its municipal limits. A law approved by the city council and sanctioned by mayor Gean Loureiro last week makes it a crime to store or apply any type of pesticide on the Isle of Santa Catarina, which corresponds to the vast majority of the city’s territory.

Such a ban has never been seen before in Brazil.

After over a year of moving through the lawmaking process, councilors approved the bill unanimously. The hope among politicians and specialists consulted by Agência Pública and Repórter Brasil is that the bill will set a path toward the creation of other pesticide-free zones</p> <p>The law was authored by left-wing City Councilor Marcos José de Abreu, better known as &#8220;Marquito.&#8221; The councilor with the second-highest number of votes in 2016, he was elected on an agroecology platform. In a council of 22 members, he is one of only four who sits on the opposition to Mayor Gean Loureiro. In order to gather unanimous approval of the bill, he says he spoke with all of his colleagues, both from the mayoral base and the opposition.</p> <p>&#8220;During the process, we visited every councilor … we sat down, showed data of analysis of residues in food and water, presenting studies correlating the use of some pesticides and the increase of various types of cancer. Our main base was believing that dialogue was possible,&#8221; he explained.</p> <p>According to Councilor Jeferson Backer, head of the Florianópolis environment committee, the approval of this free zone is the first step toward future generations starting to think about food quality. &#8220;We are a country which consumes <a href="https://brazilian.report/money/2019/07/18/drones-alternative-control-pesticides-use-brazil/">20 percent of the world&#8217;s total pesticides</a> and agricultural inputs—some of these products which are forbidden in many European countries. This initiative tends to put the brakes on this extremely exaggerated and out of control consumption, which is responsible for thousands of deaths each year,&#8221; says the politician.</p> <p>Mr. Backer says the bill is clear in relation to its objectives. &#8220;It is of utmost importance to the appreciation of the environment, food security, and life … A great victory for the population of Florianópolis.&#8221;</p> <p>Meanwhile, the Speaker of the Council, Roberto Katumi, says the law is more important for its intention rather than its impact. &#8220;Florianópolis doesn&#8217;t have a base of agriculture, what it does have is families with gardens at home. So, I don&#8217;t think the law will have a big impact. These people with gardens will be prohibited from using pesticides,&#8221; he said. In relation to the bill&#8217;s progression through the council, he said it serves as a message to the rest of the country. &#8220;It shows them that we are in favor of zero pesticides, but this law isn&#8217;t to hinder anybody, as on the island we import the majority of food,&#8221; he explained.</p> <h2>What changes with the law?</h2> <p>Besides the punishment, Florianópolis&#8217; executive branch will have to create an Environmental Sanitation Education Program to speak about the impact of pesticides on human health, as well as an Agroecological Garden Program. &#8220;The goal is for this to become an educational program to teach the impact that these pesticides may cause to health and the environment in schools,&#8221; said Marquito.</p> <p>Due to the Organic Law of Florianópolis, which does not allow the legislature to create laws on trade, the sale of pesticides on the island will not be prohibited. However, farmers who purchase these products will be banned from using them within the municipality.</p> <p>&#8220;We took almost a year working out how to make this legislation. We looked at the Brazilian Constitution, the Organic Laws of the state and municipality, and we found that we were able to legislate on the application and storage of pesticides, which opened up space for us to build this law,&#8221; Marquito explained.</p> <p>The bill was submitted 18 months after the beginning of councilors&#8217; terms, allowing time to build a propositional path and inform colleagues of the true dangers of pesticides before submitting a punitive bill. &#8220;We approved the Municipal Policy of Agroecology and Organic Production, we approved budgetary guidelines for the program on agroecology and food safety. We assisted city hall in signing the decree of the Municipal Program of Urban Agriculture, as well as working within the council, inviting state and national figures to explain the importance of agroecology,” he said.</p> <p>Meanwhile, the council created a space to submit complaints about the hazards of pesticides, including a motion to repudiate the so-called &#8220;Poison Bill,&#8221; a proposal in the national Congress loosening rules to approve licenses for pesticides. “We held an event on World Environment Day 2018 based on the impact of pesticides on human health and the environment, and on December 6 [we held] a debate on World Anti-Pesticides Day. The objective of this was to gain the confidence of councilors as they assimilated the information,&#8221; said the author of the bill.</p> <h2>Don&#8217;t draw attention</h2> <p>However, one of the main strategies of Marquito&#8217;s team was not to call <a href="https://brazilian.report/society/2019/05/03/cocktail-pesticides-water-contamination/">much attention to the bill</a>, as the local government is led by politicians from 15 right-wing parties. &#8220;We know that if state and federal agribusiness were to look in our direction and see this bill, that they would put pressure on councilors to block its approval. Councilors voted in favor because we managed to convince them,” he explains.</p> <p>&#8220;Now they are being put under pressure, from representatives and senators in their political parties because this bill opens a precedent for the rest of the country.&#8221;</p> <p>One of the major justifications for the bill was to monitor the presence of pesticide levels in food, carried out by the Consumer Support Center (CCO) of the Santa Catarina Prosecution Service, by way of the Food Without Risks Program. Each year, around 1,200 analyses are carried out; 670 in 30 types of vegetables, fruits, and greens, testing for 430 different active ingredients.</p> <p>Analyses began in 2010, and the first data showed that 34.5 percent of the foods analyzed showed the presence of pesticides above the limit permitted by law, with some products not permitted for certain crops or other items banned in the country. Thirty-one percent of the products contained pesticides, but within legal limits, and only 34.5 percent of tests identified no traces of pesticides.</p> <p>Prosecutor and CCO coordinator Eduardo Paladino states that the program is showing efficiency. &#8220;There was a significant improvement in these numbers. Products outside of the permitted parameters fell to 19.96 percent. However, the products with some type of residue rose to 40.44 percent. This means that residues were found but within legal limits. It&#8217;s worth recalling that our legislation on this topic is very permissive, especially when compared with <a href="https://brazilian.report/money/2018/06/26/pesticides-brazilian-agro/">levels accepted in the European Union</a>,&#8221; he explained.</p> <p>The total numbers of the project, consolidating all analyses made between 2010 and September 2019, show that in only 34.16 percent of cases, no pesticide traces were found in analyses. In 44.53 percent of tests, residues were found within legal limits, and in 21.31 percent they were above permitted levels.</p> <div class="flourish-embed" data-src="visualisation/807028"></div><script src="https://public.flourish.studio/resources/embed.js"></script> <p>On the new law, the prosecutor says it holds a very important symbolism. &#8220;It&#8217;s a bill that was approved unanimously, which is significant in any legislature. We hope now that this example set by Florianópolis may be followed by other municipalities,&#8221; he said.</p> <div class="flourish-embed" data-src="visualisation/807076"></div><script src="https://public.flourish.studio/resources/embed.js"></script> <p>The Santa Catarina Center of Toxicological Information and Support also has a positive take on the approval of the free zone. Coordinator Pablo Moritz explains that the center analyzes the scientific literature on the impacts of pesticides.</p> <p>“Studies which have been published in recent years show that even in low doses, chronic exposure via water, food or inhalation could cause several health problems, such as cancer and hormonal problems,&#8221; he said. &#8220;Contact with chemical substances in these products interferes with our hormones, which creates problems such as obesity, infertility, breast cancer, and sexual dysfunction.&#8221;.</p> <p>Another group involved in the bill was Rede Ecovida, a project founded in the 1980s to provide opposition to the model of agribusiness. Lido Borsuk—the coordinator of the agroecology group of Ecovida&#8217;s Florianópolis chapter—said that the association took part in the construction of the free zone bill and that this should take place in other municipalities.</p> <p>&#8220;Mayors or councilors will have many difficulties creating free zones without the participation of civil society. If the municipality does not have associations, NGOs, trade unions, creches, churches or any other group organized to fight for the right to healthy eating, politicians will be unable to approve laws such as this one,&#8221; he said.</p> <p><em><a href="https://apublica.org/2019/10/como-florianopolis-se-tornou-o-primeiro-municipio-brasileiro-livre-de-agrotoxicos/">Read the original version of this article, in Portuguese</a></em>

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BY Pedro Grigori, Agência Pública/Repórter Brasil

Pedro is a reporter for Agência Pública