'Deadly pesticides are poison for nature, not solution'

Istanbul-based conservationist promotes agroecology as 'most efficient way to ensure food safety'

Burak Bir   | 16.04.2020
'Deadly pesticides are poison for nature, not solution'


Broadly used across the world against the harmful insects, pesticides control pests for food security, yet, contrary to the claims, they are toxic substances that leave permanent marks on human and environmental health, according to an environmentalist.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency on the occasion of the project called No Pesticide On My Plate, Turgay Ozcelik, campaign and communication officer of the project at Istanbul-based Bugday Association, said those substances pose a serious threat to the public health.

Launched in 2019, No Pesticide On My Plate (Zehirsiz Sofralar) is an EU-funded project run by Bugday Association and Pesticides Action Network Europe (PAN EU). It aims to reduce the use of pesticides and raise awareness of the harmfulness of pesticides.

The pesticide use in Turkey has increased 51% in the last four years, Ozcelik said, and he urged "the immediate banning of 13 pesticide substances, classified as very dangerous and possible carcinogens by the World Health Organization as well as increasing control and ensuring transparency in this regard."

Alternative, non-toxic methods should be supported and developed to curb the use of pesticides, he said.

"[Pesticides] destroy not only the creatures that damage the crops but all the beneficial creatures in the soil, poisoning the bees, birds and us that they contact with it."

Out of 41 pesticides used in Turkey, 8 of them are deadly, 12 causes cancer, 13 damage brain, 19 of them are dangerous for children and fetus, 10 of them harm bees, 10 are dangerous for useful insects and 3 are dangerous for birds, according to a study conducted by experts at the request of the Agriculture and Forestry Ministry, he said.

"In short, these poisons threaten the health of us and other living things."

'Agroecology, most efficient way to ensure food safety '

Pesticides are shown as the "only remedy" for efficiency and to feed the world population, however, Ozcelik said statistics indicate this is not the case at all, suggesting the agroecological methods.

"Agroecology is an agricultural method that must be addressed as soon as possible and it is the only and most efficient way to ensure our food safety," he said.

It is also an approach that offers viable ways of transitioning to a food system where safe and nutritious foods are produced by nature-friendly methods and accessible to everyone.

"The average food production per household of 4.42 million small farmers producing cereal and root crops in 3.6 million hectares rose by 1.7 tons/year (73%), and there was 17 tons/year (150%) increase in food production of 146,000 farmers producing root crops such as potatoes and sweet potatoes in 542,000 hectares," he said, citing the UN figures for early-mid 1990s in favor of agroecological methods.

He went on to say that organic production is at least as efficient as conventional one and it is even more efficient in dry periods, according to the U.S.-based Rodale Institute's study.

"In other words, it is not true that we need industrial agriculture and its methods to feed the world, and we are not obliged to adopt them," he stressed, adding that there are more methods such as permaculture, natural agriculture, holistic agriculture, biodynamic agriculture and there are more techniques such as integrated pest management, biological and physical control.

Reiterating the increasing rate of pesticide use in Turkey, Ozcelik highlighted that more effective and more toxic pesticides are used every year as pests are immune to these pesticides.

"This is a vicious circle that we need to get rid of as soon as possible."

Drawing to biologist and conservationist Rachel Carson, who fought against pesticides and was remembered on April 14 on the occasion of 56th anniversary of her death, he highlighted that the role of pioneering people like Carson is really important as it is a great chance for the planet to have people standing against false facts.

Born in 1907, Rachel Carson became "mother of environmental movements" with the publication of Silent Spring, the book that spearheaded environmental activism and when Carson died in 1964, she left behind a legacy of her unique works and a struggle to protect human health and the environment.

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