By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – According to a study done by the non-governmental environmental organization, Greenpeace, sixty percent of the food used for school lunches in Rio de Janeiro’s municipal schools contained pesticide residue. Some of the pesticides discovered include chemicals banned by Brazil’s federal government.
To obtain these results, Greenpeace bought forty kilos of food from one of the six food vendors contracted by the city’s Department of Education. The vendor chosen by Greenpeace provides food to 171 schools in 24 neighborhoods throughout Rio.
After purchasing the food, Greenpeace forwarded it to the Pesticide Residue Laboratory of São Paulo. The forty kilos were divided into twenty two-kilogram samples. Of these twenty samples, twelve had pesticide residue, including some contaminated with banned chemicals.
Two of the samples contained the chemical insecticide methamidophos. Brazil’s Agencia Nacional de Vigilancia Sanitaria (National Health Surveillance Agency) has banned the use of methamidophos. According to the World Health Organization’s toxicity classification for pesticides, the chemical is classified as “Highly Hazardous,” one level below the most serious category, “Extremely Hazardous.”
In addition, in seven of the samples studied, technicians found benfuracarb, a pesticide whose use specifically for crops had been prohibited. Also, in several of the food items examined, seven different pesticides were detected, with four having amounts above the maximum allowable limit. The various food items used in the study included rice, beans, cabbage, cucumbers and peppers.
In response to the Greenpeace study, Rio’s Department of Education said in a statement to government news agency, Agência Brasil, that the food used in the municipal school system is monitored by the Instituto de Nutrição Annes Dias (INAD) under the city’s Health Department.
The statement emphasized that the INAD regularly checks the quality of the products supplied to identify whether the technical standards are met. This includes periodic visits to schools and food suppliers to ensure required guidelines are followed.
However, the statement went on to add that it is researching the possibility of using smaller, local farms that use less pesticide, for its food suppliers.