The French Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique face a “health disaster” with soaring cancer and infertility rates because of the massive use of banned pesticides on banana plantations, according to cancer specialist Professor Dominique Belpomme. “The situation is extremely serious. The tests we carried out on pesticides show there is a health disaster in the Caribbean. The word is not too strong. Martinique and Guadeloupe have literally been poisoned,” Belpomme told Le Parisien. The pesticide chlordecone, which kills weevils, was banned in France’s Caribbean territories in 1993, three years after it was banned in France. It continued to be sprayed illegally from airplanes in the Caribbean until 2002.
“The poisoning affects both land and water. Chlordecone establishes itself in the clay and stays there for up to a century. As a result the food chain is contaminated, and especially water. In Martinique most water sources are polluted,” he said.”The rate of prostate cancer is major. The French Caribbean is second in the world ranking. Extrapolations show that nearly one male in two will be a risk of developing prostate cancer.”
Agriculture Minister Michel Barnier said the situation was “very serious” and promised to “treat the question of chlordecone with the greatest openness.” The French islands produce 260,000 tonnes of bananas a year, worth some 220 million euros. In August Hurricane Dean destroyed all the crop in Martinique and some 50 percent in Guadeloupe. Barnier said this represented an opportunity to rebuild the banana plantations “with zero pesticides.”
It’s worth noting that France, with an annual consumption of 76,000 tonnes of pesticides, is Europe’s number one consumer, accounting for one-third of total consumption in Europe. Half of all fruits and vegetables produced in France contain residues and even the air in Paris contains traces of no less than 30 different types of pesticides, according to a recent study by Airparif, which monitors air quality in France.
An opinion poll published in Le Journal de Dimanche this month showed that 81 percent of the French population want stricter limits imposed on the use of pesticides. Expect heated debates on the subject at the upcoming Grenelle de l’Environnement.
via Le Parisien