Submitted to: Complete Book
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/22/2004
Publication Date: 8/1/2005
Citation: Blanco, C.A. 2005. When we are about to eat, what worries us?. Complete Book.
Interpretive Summary: Pesticides are important tools to protect us against pests and diseases and an economically effective way to produce more and better food. These substances are used all over the world and their toxicity varies between product, dose, exposure time, etc. Misuse of pesticides provokes a high number of poisonings and deaths. In Mexico, where >60,000 tons of pesticides are used annually, the number of poisoned people (373) and fatalities (23) reflects very well the world annual average. According to Mexican government statistics, 67.8% of these accidents happen at home, which might reflect a discrepancy on knowledge of these products between the urban general public and the agricultural workers. Most of the pesticides are used in fields, but >70% of Mexicans now live in urban centers. Studies done in other countries show that the use of pesticides is higher at home than in fields. Possible factors explaining this are the relatively low price of pesticides registered for home use and the lack of information written for the general public about their use. This book strongly emphasizes the need of pesticides to meet Mexican agricultural needs. The production of corn, the most important agricultural commodity of the country, is used as an example to relate to the Mexican current situation. In 5 chapters of this book, information from an interview with a leading Mexican scientist is used to incorporate a realistic and fresh perspective of the situation. Supporting agricultural science is the only way to meet the production needs, which in turn can alleviate overuse of pesticides. Pesticides are not the solution to our pest problems, but important tools, and biological control and integrated pest management should be implemented and supported by the public in general.
Technical Abstract: Mexico with >100 million people faces many social, environmental and economic problems. According to Mexican government statistics, >45% of its population consumes less than 1,800 calories per day. Corn, being the basic staple food of the country yields an average of 1,800 kg/ha, (world's average 5,500). Part of the difficulties for increasing production corn and other agricultural commodities is the fact that >60% of Mexico's surface is semi-desert. Another constraining factor is lack of information available to growers on better agronomic practices. At present Mexico's agricultural panorama appears as follows: 10% total area used for agriculture, 34% rangeland, and the deforestation grows at 0.5% annually. By 2,040, according to these projections, only 26% of the total area will remain unmodified for agricultural purposes, but water shortages will continue to be a serious problem. Pests are one of the most important aspects that diminish agricultural production world wide. Pesticides, when applied correctly have demonstrated to be of invaluable help to protect crops, but they are not the solution to the problem. Mexico uses >60,000 tons of pesticides yearly, which causes an average of 373 poisonings and 23 deaths. Curiously, these intoxications / fatalities happen 67.8% of the time at homes, which could be interpreted as a huge discrepancy between the use of pesticides at home and in agricultural fields and the proportion of accidents. Informing the urban general public about the need for pesticide use, as well as their toxicity and alternatives to them is the goal of this work. In 5 of the chapters, information from an actual interview with a Mexican leading scientist illustrates the current status and proposed potential solutions.