Investment in research and awareness reduced the use of pesticides in tobacco production by 83.3%

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On January 11, Brazil celebrates the Pesticide Pollution Control Day. There is no denying that the problem exists in Brazilian and global agriculture, but in some agricultural crops, the use of pesticides has been considerably reduced. In Brazil, for example, it is the case of tobacco farming, where the use of active ingredients has decreased by approximately 83.3% in the past two decades. Nowadays, just 1.1 kilograms per hectare are used, a proportion that ranks tobacco as the commercial crop that uses the smallest amounts of pesticides in the entire country.

The credit of this reduction, according to the president of the Interstate Tobacco Industry Union (SindiTabaco), Iro Schünke, goes to the research and development works promoted by the industries of the sector and to the creation of awareness among the farmers. Through the Integrated Tobacco Production System (ITPS), the farmers undertake to use only products authorized and registered in the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply (Mapa), and are advised to apply only the recommended amounts for the crop. Furthermore, a program that contributes toward this reduction is known as Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which sets the rules for monitoring the occurrence of pest outbreaks and the preservation of their natural enemies, thus promoting biological control. “For us, the reduction in the use of pesticides is linked with environmental responsibility and business sustainability”, Schünke explains

All data related to the reduction in the use of pesticides in tobacco farming have their origin in studies conducted and presented by universities, and specialized private and public centers. Examples include the research works carried out by the Luiz de Queiroz College of Agriculture, of the University of São Paulo (ESALQ/USP), by the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (Unica) and by the Agricultural Engineering College of the University of Pelotas (Ufpel). The conclusions of the investigations show that, while tobacco uses just over 1 kilogram of active ingredient (AI) of pesticides per hectare, other crops use much bigger amounts, like tomatoes, with 36 kilograms of pesticides per hectare; potatoes, with an average of 28.4 kilograms per hectare, and strawberries, with 5.5 kilograms per hectare (see infographics).

Besides the reduction in the use of pesticides, the tobacco sector promotes the collection of the containers of these products, for correct disposal and preventing any pollution risks. Through the Empty Pesticide Packaging Collection Program, in 16 years upwards of 12.3 million used recipients have been collected. According to the coordinator of the program, Carlos Sehn, besides the containers of pesticides used in tobacco, the farmers have the chance to get rid of containers of pesticides used on crops other than tobacco. “This contributes towards the collection of bigger amounts of pesticide containers, seeing that other crops use much bigger volumes of pesticides compared to tobacco”, he explains.

The empty pesticide containers collection program covers 563 municipalities in Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina. The trucks of the program stop at 2.3 thousand collection points in the rural zone, according to a vastly publicized agenda, besides invitations delivered in person by the technical staffs of the companies. For its efficiency, the system created by the tobacco sector has contributed towards the high Brazilian indices of reverse logistics with regard to post consumption of empty containers of agricultural pesticides, ranking Brazil as a global reference.

According to the National Institute of Empty Packaging Processing (inpEV), 94% of all plastic containers are returned by the farmers. A study by the National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES) shows that empty pesticide container collection reaches 76% in Germany, 73% in Canada, 66% in France, 50% in Japan and 30% in the United States.
Conducted by the SindiTabaco and associated companies, and supported by the Tobacco Growers’ Association of Brazil (Afubra), the aim of the Packaging Collection Program consists in providing health and safety to all rural producers, whilst preserving the environment. Furthermore, it enforces Article 53, of Decree 4.074, of 2002, which sets forth that “users of pesticides and the like, are under obligation to return the empty containers and their lids to the shops at which they were purchased, in compliance with all the instructions on the labels, within a year after the day of purchase”.

THE DATE – Created 16 years ago, the Pesticide Pollution Control Day is celebrated all over Brazil, with the aim to create awareness of the risks to the environment and people’s health. January 11 is the day that marks the signature of the Federal Decree nº 98.816, which, in the first place, regulated the Pesticide Law.

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