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.[1] What the U.S. does that other countries do not is use “voluntary, industry-initiated cancellation as the primary method of prohibiting pesticides.”[2] 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,”[3] 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.

[1] Nathan Donley. “The USA lags behind other countries in banning harmful pesticides.” Pesticide Action Network, June 11, 2019. <> (Accessed 31 August 2019)

[2] Ibid.

[3] 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

Research / SISOlson / SISOlson19


  • Avatar Tristen says:

    Hi Caroline!

    I find your topic quite fascinating, especially related to the role and rights of the individual farmer when it comes to utilizing agrochemicals. With the ever-increasing evolution of the corporation in our economy, both domestically and abroad, the individual can often get lost. Though it would be interesting to see an interpretive, case study approach to the varying definitions of farmers rights according to various countries’ legal documents, speeches etc., I also think it would be interesting to examine it through a positivist lense. Specifically, it would be of interest to look into the economic side of the bans and how certain bans impacted the overall production and even value of certain crops in the countries the bans were utilized in and how an overall international ban on these chemicals might impact the price of certain crops as a whole, as the U.S. may be able to churn out more crops without having the bans, and even looking into how the use of pesticides impacts the productivity of the worker overtime. Maybe doing price comparison for consumers might be an interesting topic to take on as well, and how we may be able to ensure that the price of those crops stay stable and not limit the access to such needed nutrients.

    Regardless, I look forward to seeing your project evolve over the year!
    – “Issues in the Economics of Pesticide Use in Agriculture: A Review of the Empirical Evidence” -
    – “Assessing the Economic Impacts of Pesticide Regulations” –

  • Overall you are off to a good start Caroline, and you also have some good suggestions from Tristen to take note of as you continue your research. I’m glad to read that you have started to engage some of the literature in your topic area, and I would recommend that you continue to do this (focusing, in particular, on scholarly journal articles to identify the current debates and thus the conceptual dimension to your puzzle). Keep reading and researching–I look forward to seeing how the project develops!

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