A new UN report denounces the ‘myth’ that pesticides are necessary to feed the world. As reported in the Guardian, the report says pesticides have ‘catastrophic impacts on the environment, human health and society as a whole, including an estimated 200,000 deaths a year from acute poisoning’. Its authors said: “It is time to create a global process to transition toward safer and healthier food and agricultural production”, and “using more pesticides is nothing to do with getting rid of hunger”. The report recommends a move towards a global treaty to govern the use of pesticides and a move to sustainable practices including natural methods of suppressing pests and crop rotation, as well as incentivising organically produced food.
Indeed, in the UK sales of pesticide-free produce are actually flourishing. Tesco reports a 15% hike over the past year and the latest UK market figures show that sales for organic produce are at their strongest in a decade. As reported in the Guardian, “In growth terms, organic is now outperforming the non-organic grocery market, contradicting cynics who said that at the first whiff of austerity we would ditch high-minded concerns about animal welfare, pesticides and the planet, and join the cheap food scrum”.
UK shoppers have not had time to really engage with what the potential outcomes of Brexit could be for food and farming. Terry Marsden and Kevin Morgan from Cardiff University call for the UK Government to recognise that we urgently need a national strategy, where the country comes together to develop an innovative, internationalist and integrated-systems- approach to the production and supply of sustainable food and promotion of sustainable diets. They say that failure to do so could expose us to vulnerabilities impacting human health and well-being far more than any other sector currently prioritised in the Brexit negotiation plans. As Victoria Schoen and Tim Lang also argue, we need a clear commitment from HM Government for ‘a post-Brexit agricultural sector to differentiate itself by producing high quality products with higher – not lower – environmental, health and labour standards.’