Urgent global action is essential to stem the tide of plastic pollution — a global problem
Bananas wrapped in plastic bags to prevent insects and parasites from entering. Credit: FAO/Giuseppe Bizzarri
  • opinion Written by Kaveh Zahedi (Rome)
  • interpress service
  • Kaveh Zahedi is Director of the Climate Change, Biodiversity and Environment Department at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Research shows that we breathe microplastics, eat microplastics, drink microplastics, and ingest microplastics through skin contact. There is increasing evidence that these may pose a potential threat to food safety and human health.

Scientists have discovered microplastics in the intestines, human heart tissue, and blood. They have been detected in breast milk, the placenta, and the developing brain. Research is currently being conducted to suggest that microplastics, which are complex mixtures of chemicals, leach compounds during the cooking process.

Agriculture is a major contributor to this wave. In 2019, 12.5 million tonnes of plastic was used in crop and livestock production, and 37.3 million tonnes of plastic was used in food packaging.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that 10 million tonnes of plastic is generated every year when transporting produce and meat from field to table, followed by fishing and aquaculture with 2.1 million tonnes and forestry with 2 million tonnes. ing.

In the short term, materials such as plastic mulch films used on farms are relatively low cost and can help improve yields and profits. But when discarded or lost, plastic breaks down into microscopic pieces, contaminating soil, water supplies and habitats, reducing productivity and food security in the long term.

Urgent action is also needed from governments, producers, farmers and individual consumers across borders and sectors.

The international community is grappling with the plastic problem.of Intergovernmental Negotiation Committee At the same time, FAO Member States are considering measures to promote sustainable use and management of plastics in agriculture for stakeholders across the agri-food value chain.

FAO has also just begun implementing projects in Uruguay and Kenya as part of its Pesticide Reduction and Management Financing Programme.

The $379 million initiative, led by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), will develop legal and financial frameworks in a total of seven pilot countries to help farmers buy pesticides and plastics. The aim is to help people phase out and adopt better practices. .

Developers say the five-year program will prevent the release of more than 20,000 tonnes of plastic waste, avoid 35,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions and protect more than 3 million hectares of land from degradation. I’m predicting.

FAO is promoting various solutions to the plastic pollution problem based on circular economy principles.

Depending on the situation, this may also include adopting agricultural practices that avoid the use of problematic plastics. Substitute natural, biodegradable, or compostable alternatives. Reuse plastic products if they are free of harmful contaminants. Establish mandatory systems for waste collection and economic incentives to encourage behavioral change from production to consumption.

One thing is important. Solutions must reach beyond national borders and across the agricultural sector. We also need a global framework provided by a legally binding global plastic pollution agreement and specific details of best practices in the agricultural sector.

But the important thing is that you have to start now. Everyone has to play a role. Plastic pollution in agriculture is a global problem that requires urgent action at every link in the production chain, from governments to farmers and plastic producers to grassroots users and consumers.

We are not used to such challenges. The world came together and won for the ozone layer. It is on a recovery trend. It’s time to suit up again, use all the means at our disposal and try as many proposed solutions as possible to slow and disperse this ever-growing wave. Our health depends on it.

© Inter Press Service (2024) — All rights reservedSource: Interpress Service

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