Poisoned by Pesticides: BRAZIL

Throughout the seventies, there were reports of the massive use of herbicides in Brazil's jungle areas. 2, 4, 5-T and 2, 4-D, both with Picloram (Dow's Tordon 155 and 101, respectively) were used to clear forest and maintain pasture. Defoliants were sprayed from planes and applied by hand to kill particularly hardy trees or scrub brush.

Regular use of these substances in the Guaporé Valley began in 1975, has been used regularly, as is Tordon 101. Each leaves dioxin as residue in soil and water. In 1973, the Nelore Cattle Breeders Association asked the Sao Paulo Agriculture College the following questions: 1) What is Agent Orange? 2) Are all herbicides with 2, 4, 5-T Agent Orange? and 3) Are herbicides other than Agent Orange recommended for making and maintaining pastures? To this, a Forestry Professor replied that: 1) Agent Orange is a mixture of 2, 4-D and 2, 4, 5-T with excessive levels of the highly carcinogenic dioxin TCDD used in Vietnam: 2) Similar pesticides are not all Agent Orange; and 3) Herbicides are not only recommended for making and maintaining pastures, they are indispensable.

Herbicide use in the Guaporé Valley is not well documented. However, in the early seventies, defoliants sprayed from airplanes killed Indians' mangabeira fruit trees, about a kilometer from the area being converted to pasture. The rancher simply stated "When pastures are sprayed, the wind always carries a little towards the Indians' villages." If there are cumulative effects later on, no one will be able to trace it to the use of Tordon.

In 1975, Fazenda Amburana received permission from FUNAI, the National Indian Foundation, to develop the lands whether Indian village was and is still on the land. Regardless, the ranchers began clearing the land, using Tordon 155. A FUNAI agent requested that federal police stop the clearing in 1979. At that time police confiscated cans of Tordon 155, which had been banned in 1977.

Indians are not aware of the dangers. They use contaminated cans for drinking water which they take from contaminated streams where they swim and bathe. Crops are planted beside the same streams. By 1980, the FUNAI agent noted increasing numbers of still births, miscarriages, infant deformities, and adult kidney problems even in environments distant from the areas of Tordon use. Even the supposedly "safe" Tordon 101 (2, 4-D) can cause damage. In small indigenous populations there is no baseline data to measure the defects, yet one or two deformities in villages of 20-30 people represent immediate and long-term consequences. Donald Morgan, as lows University medical expert on pesticide poisoning, stated in a phone interview in January that "nobody knows" what the effect of ingesting small doses of Tordon over long periods of time are.

Article copyright Cultural Survival, Inc.

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