September 1, 2019 - Caroline
RPP #1: Research Interests
When I initially wrote my project proposal, I had recently returned from Costa Rica with my sustainable farming class. Throughout the trip, various farmers, scholars, and tour guides we met all mentioned that Costa Rica is one of the world’s top importers of agrochemicals often banned by the United States or the European Union. These same countries, however, supply Costa Rica’s agrochemicals. I was extremely bothered by this information and wanted to learn more about it, especially after discovering that this was a commonly overlooked issue in other countries.
I wanted to find out why certain agrochemicals banned in some countries were widely used and unregulated in others, which led to the following thought process:
If there is scientific evidence that pesticides are harmful—which in itself is an ongoing debate or “puzzle”—why are they still on the market? What laws (or lack thereof) are in place for this to happen? Although there is a debate on whether or not these chemicals are harmful, numerous bans on them lead me to believe that they are. I will be working under this assumption for my project.
Another “puzzle” that has come up, however, is a lack of consensus and coordination concerning actual pesticide bans. For example, the EPA has approved more than a dozen agricultural pesticides that the EU, China, or Brazil have banned within their own ag sectors. What the U.S. does that other countries do not is use “voluntary, industry-initiated cancellation as the primary method of prohibiting pesticides.” This means that the power to actually stop producing and selling these pesticides remains in the hands of their producers who often put profit over environmental and health risks.
Multinational corporations hold a lot of power in global food production, so they are the primary actors in the buying and selling of harmful agrochemicals that hurt vulnerable groups like farmworkers and their families. After looking at Regine Andersen and Tone Winge’s Realising Farmers’ Rights to Crop Genetic Resources, I am interested in learning more about and expanding what “Farmers’ Rights” actually mean under agreements like the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. If the fundamental elements of Farmers’ Rights include “the right to participation in decision-making” and “the protection of traditional knowledge,” how might the continued use of banned agrochemicals violate them? Or do they not violate these rights due to certain interpretations of or loopholes in agricultural law? Could recognizing the possibility that pesticides have harmful effects on plant genetics help mitigate their use under already existing laws?
Ultimately, I would hope my research not only sheds light on this issue but also allows me to look at other areas of interest in the future like the role of MNC’s in conventional and sustainable farming, along with how committed they are to sustainability efforts at all levels of production.
 Nathan Donley. “The USA lags behind other countries in banning harmful pesticides.” Pesticide Action Network, June 11, 2019. < http://www.panna.org/blog/usa-lags-behind-other-countries-banning-harmful-pesticides> (Accessed 31 August 2019)
 Regine Andersen. “1. Crop genetic diversity and Farmers’ Rights” in Realising Farmers’ Rights to Crop Genetic Resources, eds. Regine Andersen and Tone Winge (Abingdon, Routledge, 2013), 4-11