Chile: INIA warns of the risks of pesticides on vegetables

"When we talk about pesticides, we are talking about poison," said Carlos Quiroz bluntly. Quiroz is a researcher at INIA and an expert in integrated pest management who does not hide his concern about the misuse of agrochemicals in crops. Lettuce, spinach and chard are an important part of the diet of children who are currently exposed to the ingestion of toxic waste that in the medium and long term could cause them diseases in the nervous and digestive system. To address this and other issues, the Institute of Agricultural Research (INIA) organized a dissemination seminar called "Health and Nutritional Management of Leafy Vegetables in north central Chile," being held today, Thursday, November 5, at the auditorium of the Regional Centre Intihuasi of INIA, commencing at 9:00 am.

The aim of the seminar is to present the progress and results of the Safe Leafy Vegetables project, carried out by INIA between the region of Coquimbo and the Metropolitan region, to establish production systems that take into account the use of agrochemicals based on the actual situations that arise in crops. Six professionals will be present at the meeting, which is mainly aimed at farmers, extension and producers in the region. The goal of the seminar is to help producers achieve optimum crop management involving the proper use of pesticides, fungicides and fertilizers.

An important part of the project was identifying the major diseases and pests affecting crops to fight them in a timely and efficient manner so as to obtain healthy food.

In addition to increasing production costs for farmers, unnecessary applications of pesticides increase the risk levels of leaving residues in vegetables and affecting the consumers' health. The first results of INIA's study indicate that the farmers are conducting much more applications than necessary. Trials that permitted performing fertilizer management based on cash requirements and not on a calendar schedule, as is commonly done, were performed through a survey of nutritional information and case tracking.

Carlos Quiroz, who leads the project, hopes the seminar has had a good turnout because in his view this issue should be part of the national food policy. "Producers should be aware of this issue, as they have the will to change this situation. They know there must be a change in order to avoid risks. We'll also share these management protocols with the JUNAEB, which is an important organization in school diets. That way, we will ensure the food consumed by the children has low levels of chemicals, "said the researcher.

The expert said that producers used excessive agrochemicals because of a lack of controls. "Farmers apply the pesticides because they are used to it. This happens in Chile because there are no good controls when it comes to domestic production. Producers are very concerned about residue limits with the production for export because their products could be rejected if they surpass the limits. In Chile there isn't much control on what arrives to the local markets or supermarkets. Producers manage pests or diseases so that their products look nice, but we don't know what goes on chemically inside these plants," says Quiroz.

The seminar "Health and Nutritional Management of Leafy Vegetables in north central Chile" being held today, Thursday November 5 at the auditorium of the Regional Centre Intihuasi of INIA at 9:00am. The entrance is free.


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