The Hidden Costs of Nutella: Paraquat and Growing European Hazelnut- Chocolate for Europeans and reproductive problems for temps.
Pelarco and the surrounding areas of Maule are becoming areas where European hazelnut monoculture prevails, whose final destination is the manufacture of Nutella and chocolates by the Italian-based transnational Ferraro, through its local subsidiary: AgriChile. The 2017 harvest reached the figure of 20,000 tons (with shell). Locals have denounced that this crop is made using large amounts of the paraquat herbicide, an extremely dangerous pesticide, banned in the European Union. Pesticides are highly dangerous by criteria defined by the WHO and FAO, among which are presenting one or more characteristics such as high acute toxicity, chronic toxicity, cancer in humans, mutagenic effects in humans, and toxicity to reproduction. Cancer cases have increased in all ages, in the local population, according to local residents.
Damage to health and Free Trade Agreements
Recently, the government of President Bachelet has initiated the renegotiation of the Free Trade Agreement with the European Union, which includes new clauses to ensure these investments through an International Dispute Resolution system, which if approved will leave the rural population in helplessness. This system will allow that initiatives like this cannot be the object of measures that protect the health of the local population, - such as, for example, the prohibition of the use of Paraquat - since they would be considered as obstacles to trade. And the transnational Syngenta or Ferraro itself could sue the Chilean State, while neither the government nor those affected can sue for damages against the transnational companies.
However, the discussions of the renegotiation of this treaty with the European Union began in the deepest secrecy, following the usual modality, and without having an evaluation of the costs of these treaties in environmental and social matters that have a high impact on the rural sector, due to the damage to the health of the seasonal workers, as well as in the communities surrounding the agro-export monocultures.
The ground application of Paraquat on hazelnuts to make nutella is authorized by SAG, although air spraying is prohibited, in response to a request made to SAG in 1998 by RAP-Chile. For these purposes, Inversiones El Avellano has been authorized to import Paraquat. The legal address of this company is Lo Barnechea, Santiago, and its legal representative is Bernardita Aldunate Ortiz. Its classification in Chile is group II (yellow label) classified as harmful, moderately dangerous. In Brazil, however, paraquat has toxicological classification I, extremely toxic.
Paraquat use bans
Despite the fact that in the European Union since 2009 the use of ParaquatIn Chile, hazelnuts are grown with a high use of the agrotoxic for the manufacture of Nutella in Italy and there is a flow of Italian capital investing in acquiring land in Chile to further increase the volume of production. Exporters have the advantage of being a counter-season market compared to Turkey (73% of world production) and Italy.
Due to its damage to health, the active ingredient Paraquat will be banned in Brazil as of September 22, 2020, as a result of the toxicological re-evaluation carried out by the official regulatory body Anvisa, as provided by Resolution RDC No. 177, of September 21 of 2017. The General Toxicology Management, GGTOX concluded that there was sufficient weight of evidence and legal support for the prohibition of Paraquat in Brazil due to the following aspects: severity of cases of occupational and accidental poisonings; because the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) does not guarantee total protection against Paraquat poisoning, according to the actual level of exposure of workers that exceeds acceptable levels of occupational exposure; by the existence of evidence of the triggering of Parkinson's disease; and for the evidence of its mutagenic potential.
Choice of Naranjo in Maule
María Elena Rozas, national coordinator of the Pesticide Action Network, maintains in this regard: “In Chile we have been demanding the prohibition of highly dangerous pesticides for years. Unfortunately, the lobby of the pesticides industry is very strong and has prevented the legal initiatives that have been developed in this regard. In 2007, the Senate prevented the approval of a bill that would have banned the most dangerous pesticides, although the Chamber of Deputies had approved it unanimously. It is a very bad sign that in the southern Maule Region Jaime Naranjo has been elected deputy, one of those who prevented this legal initiative, then from the Senate. He lost his seat after that vote that generated a scandal in the area and in peasant and environmental organizations. Naranjo has stood out for disregarding the risks to which rural workers are subjected and it is likely that on this occasion he has had the support of the chemical industry, which he always supports. "
Monocultures and expanding risk
According to Ferrero's own subsidiary company, hazelnut plantations to manufacture nutella exceed 20 thousand hectares, with an export of almost 75 million dollars during 2016. The Revista del Campo (El Mercurio), for its part, records that in 2017, AgriChile already has 4,200 hectares of its own orchards in the country, and expects to grow with another 300 hectares in the south of the Maule Region and 300 more in the north of Region VIII. It is the new boom: in 2016, Agrichile only owned 3,040 hectares of hazelnut monocultures, most of them concentrated in Maule, where they also have a dehulling plant and a recipient of fruits.
In April 2016, the Talquino newspaper El Centro reported that Agrichile, a Ferraro subsidiary, exported about 15 thousand tons of hazelnuts to Italy to make nutella, both from its own production and from contracts with third parties from the Maule region and properties located from Curicó to Osorno. The transnational produces Ferrero - Rocher and Kinder Sorpresa chocolates, as well as Nutella, a cream based on cocoa, milk and hazelnut.
The El Maule region concentrates the largest amount of planted hectares, with an approximate total of 9,000 hectares, supplied by the Los Niches nursery, followed by the Araucanía and BíoBío regions.
In Maule, the expansion of AgriChile has determined a change in the landscape and the impossibility of continuing with initiatives of organic agriculture and other fruit trees that develop peasant family agriculture and medium-sized producers in the sector.
“Voluntary” agreements on paper
In the same year 2016, PASO, the Office of Agrarian Planning under the Ministry of Agriculture, began a process of validation of a Sustainable Agriculture Protocol for the producer / exporter sector of nuts. The Protocol includes, among others, the monitoring of water use, respect for human rights, working and social conditions, as well as commercial management. This standard operates as a voluntary guide for the actors to define measures that allow them to achieve the proposed objectives. Regarding the pesticide issue, it states that agrochemicals with a "green label" should be preferred and is defined as Unacceptable use of pesticides from groups I and II, the latter being the class to which Paraquat belongs.
However, nothing indicates that European hazelnut producers, potential recipients of this Sustainable Agriculture protocol, are becoming aware of the dangers to which they are exposing the local population and the environment. On the contrary, it is also common to find empty containers of glyphosate, another extremely dangerous herbicide that is currently under the scrutiny of the regulatory authorities of the European Union, in mauline carcasses.
Contact: María Elena Rozas 99885 8227
Lucia Sepúlveda 990023729