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Nicaragua Sugar, pesticides and CKD

by Agustín Marenco Sunday, Dec. 18, 2011 at 7:35 PM

Important news media recently published an extensive report on chronic renal insufficiency (CRI), a disease suffered by peasants living in the Pacific region of Central America. The cause of this disease has not been scientifically proven, which could give rise to confusion in the management of this disturbing public health issue.

Newspaper articles speculate that an alleged contamination with pesticides and herbicides is one of the causes of chronic kidney disease (CKD) affecting cane cutters, among others, and brand the sugar industry as indolent for not providing protection to operators who apply agrochemicals.

To deepen knowledge of this issue, it is interesting to know that Ingenio San Antonio (ISA), owned by Nicaragua Sugar Estates Limited (NSEL), a member of Grupo Pellas, has almost entirely eliminated the use of pesticides through biological and mechanical pest control.

This company has invested nearly half a million dollars in the construction of high-tech facilities to produce living organisms that control pests. It has a laboratory that produces entomopathogenic fungi, which are used at ISA and marketed nationwide (other sugar mills and coffee growers) and internationally (El Salvador and Honduras).

The physical, mechanical and biological control used in this production system allows ISA to use minimum doses of low toxicity insecticides on very specific occasions and in very limited cultivated areas (between 2-3% of the total area).

The agrochemicals applied by Nicaragua Sugar in the production of sugar cane are approved for use at global level and the list can be consulted by any interested person with the company. The agrochemicals are also duly registered at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAGFOR), prior to the toxicological and eco-toxicological endorsement issued by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARENA). These products are also registered at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

This Nicaraguan sugar mill has mandatory personal protective equipment and safety measures of strict compliance in the application and use of agrochemicals. These personal protection practices are carried out in coordination with trade unions, making Nicaragua Sugar a worthy recipient of this year´s Excellence Award in Occupational Health and Safety granted by the National Council for Occupational Health and Safety, which is integrated by state institutions, business organizations and trade unions.

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