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Brazil’s health surveillance agency, Anvisa has approved new rules where pesticides in Brazil are going to be categorised as ‘extremely toxic’ only if they carry a ‘risk of death’.

The WHO classifies pesticides into four categories based on its level of toxicity: extremely dangerous, highly dangerous, moderately dangerous and slightly dangerous.

The new rules say that ‘extremely dangerous and toxic pesticides’ will now be reclassified into lower categories which is contrary to existing rules which consider death risk, along with other effects like skin and eye irritations. 

Environmentalists and activists had warned that this step would weaken the role of the health and environment ministries in pesticide approvals and pesticide use. 

Brazil is the world’s top exporter of soybeans followed closely by the US. It’s soybean exports hit a record of 83.6 million tonnes, now it aims to increase its global export of beans by nearly 3.7 times in a decade using-  pesticides.

The soybean crop is laden with pesticides, its use in Brazil has risen three-times faster than production per hectare, each 1% increase in soybean production is accompanied by a 13% increase in pesticide use.

In 2017, Brazil has been the third-biggest seller of beans to India, with six per cent of the market share, after Myanmar (60 per cent) and China (10 per cent). India imported 34 million beans from Brazil. 

The worrying factor is that glyphosate is used on around 95% of soybean, corn and cotton harvested in Brazil and there is no available substitute at the moment.

As India does not have any set standards for maximum residual limits for glyphosate, the FSSAI has decided to use the standards set by Codex Alimentarius, a joint committee set up by the WHO and Food and Agriculture Organization.

It also suggested testing of imported shipments of these products for compliance with these limits. As Brazil is stepping up on diluting pesticide rules with support of President Jair Bolsonaro, consumers or the importing nations need to be extra cautious with their import clearances to crops from Brazil.  

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