The following is an excerpt from our report 'Chinese Herbs: Elixir of Health or Pesticide Cocktail?', which can be read in full here.
The so-called "Green Revolution" that William Gaud, Former Director of the US Agency for International Development, was so strongly advocating, includes the extensive use of insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, synthetic fertilizers, large-scale irrigation, increased used of fossil-fuels and mono- cropping of hybrid seeds. The "Green Revolution" started after the Second World War and seemed to work increasing food production. However, it also created a greater dependency of farmers on using more and more chemical inputs while damaging the environment and threatening our health.
A recent report from Greenpeace documents - once more - the ugly side of chemical-intensive agriculture that the so-called "Green Revolution" put in motion. It is now obvious that the "Green Revolution" failed because increases in crop production came with massive destruction in agricultural landscapes: chemical pollution, contaminated water, soil and food.
Pesticides in particular, are linked to declines in biodiversity, (including birds, amphibians and now bees), detrimental pest infestation, increased economic burden for farmers, contamination of water, soil, and severe contamination of our food. In addition, the number of people undernourished is heading rapidly towards one billion despite the fact that the quantity of food calories available exceeds what is needed now and in the future to feed everyone. To end hunger we need to address food inequality and food waste.
Chemical agriculture promoters will continue to intimidate - "use chemicals or starve" - but this approach was and continues to be untrue: a dangerous lie. In fact, studies show that ecological farming, especially in developing countries, can produce up to 80% more food than the chemical agriculture while at the same time avoiding the chemical dangers to human life and the environment. Imagine what could be achieved if the world embraced the existing equitable and ecological farming solutions instead of toxic agriculture!
Faced with the downsides of agriculture pesticides, many responsible policy-makers in the world agree that it is necessary to reduce the use of pesticides. We, at Greenpeace, believe that the world needs to move faster, reduce and eliminate pesticides, and rapidly switch to ecological farming without chemicals. Why? Because dependency on chemical pesticides represents an addiction afflicting global agriculture, with dire and sometimes unknown impacts on ecosystems and human health.
The situation is urgent everywhere and in China in particular. Despite plans and promises to reduce pesticides use, we can find too many pesticide residues in the food that people eat. As can be seen in this report, Chinese herbs used in traditional medicine - that have been so important for the Chinese people’s health and nutrition throughout history- contain extensive pesticides residue (including multiple pesticides and too often ... illegal and very dangerous ones).
China can become a leader in ecological agriculture and can resolve the pesticide crisis. China and the world need a true "Green Revolution", but this time it has to be ecological farming without chemicals!
Head here to view our entire 'Heal the Herbs' feature.
Image: Hani women at their rice paddy carrying ducks, Lao Bo Village, Yunnan Province, China. Ducks play an important role in the long developed Hani rice-farming system and are an excellent example of ecological agriculture. They are taken out to the paddy to clean it up from weed and pests. In return, their manure serves as good quality fertiliser to nourish the rice. © Greenpeace / John Novis