Trade and the environment: Latin America

Posted: 14 December 2007

Trade policies in Latin America, to encourage the export of fruit and vegetables have led to severe environmental problems in a number of the exporting countries. The international market demands produce with no blemishes and farmers feel they have to use large amounts of pesticide - far more than is used on most traditional crops. Encouraged to grow vegetables and fruit for export, farmers regard pesticides as the way to guarantee that their produce arrives in top-notch condition.

  • Many farmers over-use pesticides and apply them at the wrong times, including right up to harvest. A serious 'side-effect' is that the heavy applications of pesticide applied to these crops is leading to new pests and viruses, causing huge damage to food crops. The expansion of vegetable crops has resulted in the appearance of new virus problems; more than one million hectares previously planted to beans in South America are now abandoned due the incidence of whitefly transmitted viruses.

  • The boom in soybean cultivation coincided with one of the worst virus epidemics that Latin American agriculture has ever suffered - golden mosaic disease - caused by a virus transmitted by the white?y. This has seriously affected traditional bean growing areas and crops for local people. In Argentina the whitefly has caused virus epidemics. Consumption of beans by Brazilians has almost halved since 1981. Bean production in Chile is increasingly affected by epidemics of viruses are there are direct side-effects to health.