The use of plastics in agriculture threatens food safety and human health, FAO warns

The use of plastics in agriculture threatens food safety and human health, FAO warns


Author: Jerri-Lynn Scofield, he has served as a securities lawyer and derivatives trader. She is currently writing a book about textile craftsmen.

The Food and Agriculture Association of the United Nations (FAO) released a report this week discussing how the current use of plastics in agriculture threatens food safety and human health.

In recent years, the impact of plastics—especially microplastics—on ocean health has attracted increasing attention. FAO report, Agricultural plastics and their sustainability assessment: a call to action, Believes that the use of plastics in agriculture poses a greater threat to food safety, people’s health and the environment.

Since the introduction of plastics in the 1950s, the use of plastics has become ubiquitous in agriculture.Every Statement of the report issued by FAO:

According to data compiled by experts of this institution, the agricultural value chain uses 12.5 million tons of plastic products each year. Another 37.3 million tons are used for food packaging. Crop production and animal husbandry are the largest users, with a combined use of 10.2 million tons per year, followed by fishery and aquaculture with 2.1 million tons, and forestry with 200,000 tons. It is estimated that Asia is the largest user of plastics in agricultural production, accounting for nearly half of global use. In the absence of viable alternatives, the demand for plastics in agriculture will only increase.

The demand for plastics from agriculture is only expected to increase. FAO predicts that the global demand for greenhouses, mulch films and silage films will increase by 50%, from 6.1 million tons in 2018 to 9.5 million tons in 2030.

exist ‘Catastrophic use of plastics in agriculture threatens food safety-United NationsThe Guardian highlighted the link between the use of plastic and the presence of microplastics in the soil:

Maria Helena Semedo, FAO Deputy Director-General, said: “The report strongly calls for decisive action to curb the catastrophic use of plastics in the agricultural sector.”

“Soil is one of the main receptors for agricultural plastics. As we all know, soil contains More microplastics than ocean,” she said. “Microplastics will accumulate in the food chain, threatening food security, food safety and potential human health. “
Global soil is the source of all life on land, but FAO warned in December 2020 Their future looks “gloomy” Take no action to stop degradation.Microplastic pollution is also a global problem, from The top of Mount Everest arrive Deepest trench.

Farmers around the world cover their land with plastic without understanding the long-term cost of this practice. According to the FAO statement:

Unfortunately, the properties that make plastics so useful can cause problems when they reach their expected lifespan.

The variety of polymers and additives mixed into plastics makes their sorting and recycling more difficult. Because they are man-made, there are few microorganisms capable of degrading polymers, which means that once they enter the environment, they may break up and stay there for decades. As of 2015, nearly 80% of the estimated 6.3 billion tons of plastic produced had not been properly handled.

Once in the natural environment, plastic can cause harm in many ways. The impact of large plastic products on marine animals has been well documented. However, as these plastics begin to decompose and degrade, their effects begin to work at the cellular level, not only affecting individual organisms, but possibly the entire ecosystem.

Microplastics (plastics smaller than 5 mm in size) are considered to pose a specific risk to animal health, but recent studies have detected traces of microplastic particles in human feces and placenta. There is also evidence that in rats, smaller nanoplastics can be transmitted from mother to child.

Although most scientific research on plastic pollution has focused on aquatic ecosystems, especially the ocean, FAO experts have found that it is believed that agricultural soil contains more microplastics. Since 93% of global agricultural activities occur on land, it is clear that further investigations in this area are needed. [Jerri-Lynn here: my emphasis.]

I would say.

The Guardian amplified these concerns:

Professor Jonathan Leake from the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom and a team member of the United Kingdom Sustainable Soil Alliance said: “Plastic pollution of agricultural soil is a widespread and persistent problem that threatens soil health in most parts of the world.”

He said that little is known about the effects of plastics, although the adverse effects on earthworms have been seen, which play a vital role in maintaining soil and crop health.

“We are currently adding large amounts of these non-natural materials to agricultural soils, but we don’t understand their long-term effects,” he said. “In the UK, the problem is particularly serious because we use a lot of sewage sludge and compost contaminated with plastic. We need to remove plastic [from these] Before they are added to the land, because it is impossible to remove them afterwards. “

What to do

FAO cannot imagine an agricultural production system that does not rely heavily on the use of plastics. According to its summary statement:

The lack of viable alternatives makes it impossible for plastics to be banned. And there is no panacea to eliminate their shortcomings.

I find it increasingly frustrating to read such reports, whether they are issued by governments, public interest groups, or multilateral entities. These reports usually explain well some terrible threats to human health or survival. Then, when it comes to recommendations for action, avoid any solution that is sufficient to solve the well-intentioned but defined problem scale. Why bother to put the question out, just to make useless suggestions in the form of soothing pablum.

The FAO report conforms to this familiar model, and according to the summary statement:

…The report identified several solutions based on the 6R model (rejection, redesign, reduction, reuse, recycling, and recycling). Agricultural plastic products identified as having high potential for environmental hazards include non-biodegradable polymer-coated fertilizers and mulch films.

The report also recommended the development of a comprehensive voluntary code of conduct to cover all aspects of plastics in the entire agri-food value chain, and called for more research, especially on the health effects of microplastics and nanoplastics.[Jerri-Lynn here: my emphasis.]

That will tell them!


“In the context of food security, nutrition, food safety, biodiversity and sustainable agriculture, FAO will continue to play an important role in comprehensively addressing the issue of agricultural plastics,” Semedo said.

No matter what that might mean.

Although FAO’s solutions may not be sufficient to address the scale of the problem, ecological observations The UN report warns that the “catastrophic” use of plastics in agriculture threatens soil and human health, Approvingly quoted an expert’s suggestion, who believed that innovation can save the situation:

Innovation is also a possible solution, Kristina Thygesen, Senior Expert Grid Arendal People who are cooperating with the Environment Agency on agricultural plastics said.

“Now, farmers may use plastic to control weeds, but maybe a small machine can be developed that can identify weeds and remove them,” she said in a statement. [UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Global Partnership for Nutrient Management]statement. “We live in a high-tech world, and if we really want to, we can find solutions. We need to develop a new generation of agricultural technology.”

Innovative Fairy and her sister Recycling Fairy are as effective in responding to this plastic crisis, and it is equally possible to save us from the stupidity of plastic.

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