dimanche 4 décembre 2016

94- Agroecology -4- Air quality


I recently had the opportunity to talk to someone who is, as they say, "knowledgeable" about something that could become quite quickly a burning issue.

The French government, within the framework of its political project for the promotion and development of agroecology (see https://culturagriculture.blogspot.com.es/2016/04/74-agroecology-1-concept.html), has launched an interesting and extensive study on air quality in rural areas to measure the invisible impact of farming practices on the air we breathe.

http://france3-regions.francetvinfo.fr/poitou-charentes/sites/regions_france3/files/styles/top_big/public/assets/images/2013/06/25/capteur-air-atmo-picardie-25062013.jpg? Itok = lLtysJC8

To do this, specific sensors have been placed in villages (alongside agricultural areas, in the heart of villages, in school yards, etc.).
For the study to be complete, sensors have also been placed in large cities, in order to have the necessary references of areas remote from agricultural influence.
These numerous sensors measure air quality 24 hours a day, and measurements are related to agricultural practices of each region, in order to draw the relevant conclusions.

At the same time, manufacturers of agricultural machinery are working on possible developments of specialized equipment in order to minimize the impact on air quality, in particular of pesticide applications. They study types of nozzles, ventilation turbines, systems for recovering surplus pesticides, etc.


At the same time also, researchers in agronomy of many specialties, are studying the modes of cultivation able to adapt to different equipment. For example, fruit hedges make possible to use equipment that free orchards do not allow.
They are studying the possibility of installing high protective hedges around agricultural areas to have the effect of a "recuperator" of pesticide drifts (at the same time as they serve as refuges for the useful fauna, thus helping to reduce the use of pesticides, and also as protection against negative effects of wind).


They also study, in coordination with specialized organisms in organic farming, alternative means to protect crops (ozonization, low electric waves, and insect nets, for example).


At the same time again, pesticide manufacturers are working on molecules, additives and formulations that don't produce vapors to reduce the risk of pesticides being unintentionally found in the air we breathe, and to maximize the amount of the molecule able to reach its target, with the least possible collateral damage.

And at the same time at last, seed growers and creators of new varieties work to create, through natural ways or with the help of biotechnology, more rustic varieties, less susceptible to diseases and pests, in order to reduce the need to have to use pesticides. Unfortunately, they often come up against the misunderstanding of the public who do not realize that the health and environmental benefits that these new varieties can bring are far greater than any hypothetic disadvantages that until now nobody has been able to scientifically demonstrate.

In short, all specialized public or private organizations involved in this great movement of agroecology development, are working hard to solve the air pollution caused by agriculture.

It seems that many conclusions of this important multidisciplinary research work could almost be published.
Yet the results of air quality studies are still not available to the public.

It is because are emerging some rather embarrassing, politically not very correct conclusions which, for the coherence of the movement to be total, could lead to legislations and obligations that nobody really wants.
For example?
Some sensors are detecting organochlorine, or different types of products prohibited for a very long time in agriculture. Would farmers have built up huge stocks to be able to follow (illegally) using them during 40 years after the bans? The hypothesis is easy to verify. It is also totally silly. But why not, right? But it no longer holds when sensors of downtown, very distant from fields, even in big agglomerations, confirm it.


Then it is necessary to envisage something else. A real investigation work is therefore launched to understand the phenomenon. In fact, this work, the consequences of which could be immeasurable, is proving that agricultural pollution, which is real, but probably very largely overestimated and, above all, largely over-mediatized thanks to the influence and lobbying of organic movements, is only a small part of the problem of air quality.

One of the triggers of this study was the famous case of intoxication of children from a village school beside Bordeaux, as a result of phytosanitary treatments in the surrounding vineyards. The media coverage of this case was, from the start, extremely dishonest, accusing conventional agriculture and synthetic pesticides, when in reality two neighboring farmers were involved, one in conventional agriculture and the other in organic farming, while both were spraying their vineyards with sulfur, a natural product authorized in organic and conventional agriculture.

In fact, many industrial processes use pesticides, especially those that use raw materials of animal or plant origin. For example, the treatment of carpentries. The case I am talking about concerns school facilities whose timber, made of treated wood (what we call an autoclave, a wood injected under high pressure, with different pesticides and metal salts to prevent fungi and insects from attacking it), whose origin is extra-European, release in the air, 24 hours a day, residues of pesticides prohibited in Europe for a very long time.

However, these industrial processes applied to products of agricultural origin but of different use, are not sufficiently controlled, neither in origin nor when they are imported. No residue analysis is done on timber, fabrics or hides.
However, these materials fill our homes, offices and public places.

We control food, it's normal. What we ingest should be safe, we all agree on that.
But this study, which is clearly focused on agricultural practices, could reveal many unsuspected problems that could disturb many people.
It has already been necessary, a short time ago, and it cost a real fortune to States, to remove asbestos from all buildings. Imagine if it is now necessary to disassemble one by one all carpentries or to discard millions of furniture or accessories various and varied.


Who will pay these bills?

But public health has a very high cost, both economically and politically.

When will we see the publication of these results, in their entirety? And who will risk taking responsibility for the situation and the measures to be taken?

Politicians who launched this study, with the obvious idea in mind, in the short to medium term, of banning many pesticides, could be faced with a much more serious, difficult and costly problem to solve. A kind of return of the stick, of an irrational dogmatism.

This is where we see that agroecology is a deeply good idea. I truly believe that integrating agriculture into its environment and into society is a real good idea. To succeed in bringing modern agriculture and today's society together is a necessity, and this movement of agroecology carries with it the potential to make it happen.
Yet, at least in France, the government itself demonstrates that it does not seek to integrate agriculture into society, but seeks to oblige agriculture to transform itself into organic agriculture. There is no scientific basis to support this idea. There is much more ideology than common sense in this project.

Do you doubt it? Look at the impressive amount of television programs against agriculture (so-called "agri-bashing") broadcast in recent years on French public service channels, thus with the endorsement of the government. All these programs work on the same model: we take a relatively harmless subject, we present it in its most negative angle, we fake the images or the way of filming, we garnish it with some unverifiable but disturbing testimonies, and we add some comments full of innuendo ... without forgetting the importance of a horror film music. The shadow of a doubt.
Especially when you know that it is so easy to manipulate minds. Because the reality of the subjects of all these programs is quite different. Today's food is healthy and safe. It has even never been so healthy and safe in all the history of mankind.


But letting the doubt run will lead the people to make themselves the decision to change course, even to rush to a gross mistake.
"A lie repeated ten times remains a lie; repeated a thousand times, it becomes a truth ". (Adolf Hitler).

But considering all that this work will discover, is it reasonable to continue to call this movement "agroecology"?

Because if agriculture is not as unhealthy as we think, and if society needs a whole, real and urgent questioning on these environmental effects, should not we rather launch a vast  movement of "socioecology", which of course would include an area of agroecology?

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