Use of pesticides in Cane fields - safe rhum?

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Wed Aug 27, 2008 10:15 pm

Watching recently the TV-show based on the aerial photography & cinematography of Yann Arthus-Bertrand, I noticed an interesting piece of information on the use of pesticides in French Antilles (Martinique and Guadeloupe were mentioned in particular): United States banned the use of chlordecone as a pesticide in 1976, when the authorities realized how incredibly toxic this substance was, and how it had a very long half-life (30+ years) and stayed in the environment, polluting the soil, the waters, and everything grown on the land, even animals that graised on the vegetation. In the French Antilles, they continued to use this chemical up til recent years as the French government took no notice of bans elsewhere. Now, according to the TV-show at least, on Guadeloupe alone there is 4,500+ hectares of land which the government has determined to be so polluted that it has banned the land owners from using this land in any way. Similarly the sediments at the bottom of the rivers crossing through these lands are highly toxic. Some say that this has caused the cancer rates to soar on the islands already.

Sadly I have seen careless use of heavy chemicals (banned in USA) also for example in Trinidad. One reason for this wreckless use of super-toxic weedicides and pesticides is also the local land law: My family for example owned land in Las Lomas, Trinidad. As long as we did something with the land, i.e. did not allow it just to overgrow or tried to cultivate it, there was little chance of dispute over the land rights. If we did nothing with the land and left it to its natural state, any rasta or vagrant who started cultivating it could claim in no time at all "squatters rights", and if they had tried to cultivate the lands, courts would be quite lenient in granting them rights to our land. This is a common practice in South America also, and such laws often also contribute to destruction of rain forests sadly. I give you one idea of how toxic the environment in Las Lomas was: There was a little river running through our lands...and there was NO LIFE in that river. This, in the tropics, where such a fresh water river should have been teeming with insects, fishes etc.!! Obviously something was making the water lethal.

OK, to link this to rhum / rum production: I have to wonder how much chemicals are used in cane fields in different places, and how much of those chemicals end up in the rhum/rum we drink? Yann Arthus-Bertrand's show mentioned use of chlordecone in banana plantations in particular, but I wonder about cane fields..? ... artinique/

And some interesting readings..

"Hawaii's large agricultural business's also contribute to the pesticide problem. sugarcane undergoes "close-in," when its leaves effectively shade the entire land area below the plants, preventing weed growth. But before this can happen, cane fields are sprayed with a variety of herbicides. Of relatively recent introduction are cane varieties that require spraying with the herbicides round-up or Mon 8000 to "ripen" them ("ripening" consists of arresting the plant's actual growth while leaving it to continue photosynthesizing, thus increasing sugar content. Without spraying, the sugar content of the new varieties is inadequate). However, the precision of application is frequently not all that could be desired. A colleague told me in horror of how a 300 gallon (350 litre) planeload of Roundup had disappeared enroute to the intended spray location. He knew the plane had been loaded, but when the pilot went to spray the cane fields... there was no herbicide in the tank. Where it all ended up between loading and its intended destination was a complete mystery. On another occasion he learned a crew had mistakenly spread rodenticide in a forest reserve. He did not like to speculate about the effects or retention of rodenticide in local pigs, which frequented cultivated fields as well as the adjacent reserve." ... cides.html

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Capn Jimbo
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Thu Aug 28, 2008 12:59 am

Yikes! Yet another reason why Barbancourt cane juice rums may taste better!

I kid. This is a terrible state of affairs, a post of which we should all take close note. Thanks Dupont. It's the American way, I guess...

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Count Silvio
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Sat Sep 06, 2008 4:57 pm

JaRiMi wrote: OK, to link this to rhum / rum production: I have to wonder how much chemicals are used in cane fields in different places, and how much of those chemicals end up in the rhum/rum we drink? Yann Arthus-Bertrand's show mentioned use of chlordecone in banana plantations in particular, but I wonder about cane fields..?
How much chemicals are used in fruits and vegetables we eat? I am no chemist and I don't have much knowledge of the use of pesticides but if I have to guess I would say that there is a minimal amount of "poison" left in the final rhum product because it goes through so many different processes before it becomes rhum. Would it be foolish to suggest we probably get more chemicals from the fruits and vegetables we buy?

Some places like Florida seldom use pesticides in their cane plantations according to this article.
Sugarcane in Florida requires a minimum amount of pesticides. There are several reasons why this is the case. First, sugarcane is relatively tolerant to damage by most pest species. This is especially true with respect to pests which attack foliage. Taking advantage of this tolerance, sugarcane growers have successfully implemented natural control strategies for most pests.

For control of plant diseases, no fungicides (pesticides used specifically for fungal pathogens) are applied by sugarcane growers in Florida. Resistant sugarcane varieties are the single-most important management strategy for the control of bacterial, fungal, and viral diseases.

Natural control of insect pests through the preservation and encouragement of insect parasitoids and predators is recognized as an important tactic of integrated pest management (IPM) . For insects and mite pests of sugarcane, biological control (using predators, parasites, and other beneficial organisms to control pests) has been an outstanding management strategy.

Insect parasites are among the most valuable biological control agents, but a number of common predators are also important. These include earwigs, lacewings, lady beetles, fire ants, and ground beetles, as well as birds such as the cattle egret. Years of cooperative research by private industry, the USDA and the University of Florida, have been conducted to boost biological controls. One large sugarcane company has developed a system for growing beneficial insects and releasing them as a substitute for pesticides to control one of the most important insect pests.

While EPA-approved insecticides may occasionally be required, the use of chemicals in Florida sugarcane is best described as limited. For example, recent estimates indicated that more than 80% of the sugarcane in Florida is often grown without receiving a single foliar pesticide application for insects, mites, or diseases over the course of an entire year.
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Wed Sep 10, 2008 2:34 pm

I am also concerned by Ethyl carbamate (also called urethane), a cancerous chemical found in beverages made by a fermentation process and then heated.

Barbancourt has been banned for an indefinite time in at least one Canadian province (Quebec) because of suspiciously high levels of that molecule.
Hazardous Substances Data Bank wrote:Evidence for Carcinogenicity:
Classification of carcinogenicity: 1) evidence in humans: no data; 2) evidence in animals: sufficient. Overall summary evaluation of carcinogenic risk to humans is Group 2B: The agent is possibly carcinogenic to humans. /From table/
[IARC. Monographs on the Evaluation of the Carcinogenic Risk of Chemicals to Man. Geneva: World Health Organization, International Agency for Research on Cancer, 1972-PRESENT. (Multivolume work)., p. S7 73 (1987)]**PEER REVIEWED**
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