Estimating the social cost of pesticide use: An assessment from acute poisoning in Brazil
Lopes Soares, Wagner
Firpo de Souza Porto, Marcelo
The intensive use of pesticides in countries like Brazil has ignored structural and institutional shortfalls, such as the lack of workforce training for the new, difficult to implement technologies, and the institutional vulnerability of the environmental protection, health, and safety sectors. As a result we have "invisible" or social, environmental and health costs which end up being socialised with the farmer, in general, having no incentives to recognise and internalise them. This study is intended to review and develop this problem in the light of the Brazilian reality. To this end, we make use of an empirical exercise to illustrate estimation of the social cost associated with acute poisoning by pesticide using the PREVS/IBGE data (Harvest Forecast Research) in the state of Paraná, Brazil. The results suggest that, for maize, the costs of acute poisoning could represent 64% of the benefits of using herbicides and insecticides, and, in the best of hypotheses, when some risk factors are eliminated, they may reach 8% of the benefits of the use of these products. Similarly, when we examine future scenarios for five and ten years, we find less encouraging results, as in ten years the costs of acute poisoning could reach around 85% of the benefit of using insecticides and herbicides for maize. However, there is the encouraging news that, if preventive measures were taken during this time, the gains would be considerable, about 6.5 times greater. We conclude that an assessment of the real benefits involved with pesticides in Brazil is required, principally in regard to the smallholder, where farmers need more training in the use -- or even the elimination -- of these hazardous substances. There are sustainable technological options available which are economically efficient, especially if we consider the social, environmental and health costs. In this context it is worth highlighting the role of regulatory measures as a mechanism which can reorient generation of negative external costs through the reduction of current incentives in the socialisation of private costs.
Pesticides Poisonings External costs Social cost Cost-benefit
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