Industrial agriculture model negatively affects the region: Robin Canul

The documentary "What happened to the bees?" narrates the beekeepers struggles with fumigation

Graciela H. Ortiz
Foto: Fernando Eloy
La Jornada Maya

Mérida, Yucatán
Thursday 7 of November, 2019

“I think that the documentary will organically travel the roads, not only of the communities, but also of the decision makers, because that is where we have collected the information, the palpable evidence of the applications that the agriculture model is having negative industrial effects on the region ”, says Robin Canul, one of the directors of the documentary feature What happened to the bees?, which tells the story of the fight the beekeepers of Hopelchén, Campeche, have against deforestation and fumigation that is carried out for the planting of transgenic soy.

He states that it is a clash between production models, where 40 percent of the honey produced throughout the country comes from the communities of the Yucatan Peninsula, “that is, there is a direct impact on the ecosystem and also the economy of the country".

It is not only the model of industrial agriculture, but any mega project that they apply without agreement 169, to which the country is bound, “that before the application of any project that can affect the ways of life, of development, they must first consult the communities and reach agreements, tell them what will affect them and how they can benefit them, ”he adds.

The filmmaker argues that the same thing that happens with transgenic soybeans, happens with the Tren Maya, with pig farms, “then it is not so difficult to understand, it is also a matter of geopolitics, who is demanding transgenic soybeans, who is consuming? These all are things we have to ask ourselves.

About GM soy

The production of monocultures such as soybeans has increased the demand for the aerial fumigation service under the argument of reducing costs and enabling work in growing areas (of 500 hectares or more). In the periods of pest control (such as the attack of the plague of worms in soybeans in 2017 and during September and October 2019), fumigations have been observed every three or four days in the same place, for several consecutive weeks, according to a field study carried out by the College of the Southern Border and the Collective of Mayan Communities of the Chenes.

The pesticides used in aerial spraying are diverse and it is common for them to be mixed when they are applied, which increases their danger. Among other products, highly dangerous pesticides are being applied such as: Malathion (carcinogenic and very toxic to bees); Cypermethrin (very toxic to bees); Imidacloprid + Lambda-cyalotrine (the first is very toxic to bees, and the second can cause death if inhaled, in addition to being endocrine disruptor and also very toxic to bees); Methamidophos (can cause death if inhaled and is very toxic to bees); Chlorantraniliprol (very toxic in aquatic organisms and very persistent in water and soil); Glyphosate (probably carcinogenic) and Paraquat (can cause death if inhaled).


Among the affectations reported by residents, beekeepers and farmers of these communities, are the death of hives in apiaries near the fumigation areas, the affectation of crops (mainly pumpkin and corn) by aerial spraying with herbicides, the death of wild animals (turkeys, deer, rabbits, birds) and small livestock (calves, sheep), as well as the contamination of bodies of water such as gouaches and lagoons. In addition to the serious health risk that this practice implies for residents of nearby communities.

The proximity of the applications to the communities of Ich-Ek, San Francisco Suc-Tuc, Huechil and Hopelchén is notorious. In that last community, at the end of 2017, the presence of a plane was detected that was beginning to descend in preparation to begin the application of pesticides when it passed over a school of higher secondary education (the plot in which the applications were made is only 500 meters from this school). In September and October 2019, spraying was reported in areas adjacent to the Technological Institute, which caused symptoms of poisoning among some students and teachers.

These applications endanger the health and life of the chenera population, ecosystems and economic activities that support thousands of families (beekeeping and peasant agriculture), and all this happens without control or supervision by government authorities.

Due to the effects that these fumigations are causing in beekeeping (the main economic activity of more than 2,000 Mayan peasant families in the municipality), in addition to the high risk to the health of the population and the ecosystem, aerial spraying should be prohibited.