The question of intensive pesticide use on tobacco is one of the myths that seem to last forever, with no scientific evidence. Contrary to what is usually spread by the media, research based on official data released by the SINDAG (National Union of the Agricultural Protection Industry) concludes that Brazilian tobacco is the commercial crop that uses the least amounts of pesticides.
Furthermore, the sector is concerned about the disposal of the pesticide containers utilized on tobacco and crops other than tobacco. The Empty Pesticide Container Collection Program was created in 2000, even before legislation was passed making it mandatory to return the containers, in 2002. Currently, there are 2.3 thousand collection sites throughout the rural zones, benefiting 563 tobacco growing municipalities.
Primers, media campaigns, awareness creating seminars are part of the investments by the industry towards strengthening the technical recommendations to the farmers.
Exposure to nicotine takes place through dermal contact with the resin (gummosis) of the tobacco leaves during harvesting, topping, collection from the field and transportation to the curing barns. That is why, if gloves and appropriate clothing are not worn, the chances to get poisoned increase greatly. Absorbed by the skin, the nicotine is carried to the blood vessels. Its absorption is proportional to the size of the exposed body parts, and of the presence of skin lesions.
Between 2010 and 2011, a second consultancy was hired, with the specific aim to evaluate the effectiveness of the clothes, their operational safety and the degree of protection against the Green Tobacco Sickness.
In 2011, this work was greatly intensified through an unprecedented agreement between the tobacco supply chain, the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama), and the Ministry of the Environment. Production areas began to be monitored by satellite in order to ensure the preservation of the Atlantic Forest.
This legal product employs 2.5 million people, it is the driving force behind the development of 556 municipalities, bringing in revenue of US$ 2,05 billion a year from exports, while the integrated growers’ income amounts to R$ 6,28 billion.
We still have quite a way to go until the problem has been entirely eradicated. However, it is important to mention that the Brazilian department of the International Labor Organization (ILO) considers the tobacco sector an example to be followed when it comes to eradicating child and adolescent labor, which is a permanent rural and urban concern.
Rural succession is a question that causes concern, not only in the tobacco scope, but in the sphere of agriculture in general, especially in the area of food crops. The subject has triggered the interest of both companies and farmer representations. There is need to encourage the young to stay in the countryside, facilitating access to the internet and to technologies, and through comprehensive education geared towards rural entrepreneurship, always within the context of the reality the young farmers are inserted into.
To encourage succession, the SindiTabaco is a supporter of Agricultural Family Schools (EFAs), through a series of scholarships granted to students. The schools employ the so-called Alternance Pedagogy methodology for agriculture-oriented high school students. The aim of the partnership consists in providing the young people in the countryside with capacity building opportunities, thus preparing them for succeeding their parents, whilst turning them into rural entrepreneurs. In our view, the EFAs are the right course for rural succession, seeing that the school allows for specific and qualified education. Some companies are also running digital inclusion projects, whereby the young have access to new technologies and knowledge.
Mechanized harvesting is now being tested by some companies with the aim to adapt it to the real estate structure of the small tobacco growing holdings in the country. Furthermore, the topography of the regions and the cost of the equipment should also be considered. We believe that, in the near future, we will make strides in this field.
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