A task force of companies that manufacture the herbicide, paraquat, is mobilizing to try to reverse the decision of the National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa) to ban the product in Brazil from September 2020. To achieve this, the group is preparing studies that will aim to counter claims that the active ingredient is mutagenic and connected to Parkinson’s disease.
In another battle front, the companies have asked Anvisa for a year-long extension to the ban. Using the grace period, the companies are already planning to gather the data needed to corroborate their thesis that the ban is wrong and without scientific basis.
One of the entities directly involved and supporting the continued use of the herbicide is the Brazilian Association of Soy Producers (Aprosoja Brasil). According to Fabrício Rosa (Executive Director of Aprosoja Brasil), paraquat is a low cost and highly efficient generic product, both for the management of weeds and for use in the technique of no-till. He argues that the product can help improve soil quality.
According to Rosa, there are at least 11 fundamental cultures relevant to both Brazilian agribusiness and the consumer table that require paraquat, stating, “You are going to need more expensive substitutes. In soy, for example, you would have to replace it with two or three products, which can increase costs for producers by up to R$500 million. The damage is incalculable.”
According to Daniel Leastro (Technical Advisor to the Union of National Phytosanitary Producers/Manufacturers, Unifito), the herbicide is a cheap product for farmers and its withdrawal from the market will increase the number of applications of other products and related expenses, which will cause greater environmental impact. “There is no product like paraquat on the market,” he added.
Leastro also disputes the justifications presented by the final report that supports Anvisa’s decision, noting that over 40 countries have approved the use of paraquat, including developed countries, such as Canada, Japan, Australia and even Israel. He also pointed out that the North American Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did not find the same issues that the Brazilian agency claims to have discovered.
“The doses in which the product is used in the field do not cause any damage to the applicator or the consumer. The agency will be given time to analyze other studies to keep the product on the market,” Leastro, who is working with the task force on the new studies that aim to change Anvisa’s decision.