Argentina introduces more pesticide restrictions

BUENOS AIRES Fri Aug 2, 2013 10:57am EDT

A combine harvester is used to harvest wheat in a field in the village of General Belgrano, 160 km (100 miles) west of Buenos Aires, December 18, 2012. REUTERS/Enrique Marcarian

A combine harvester is used to harvest wheat in a field in the village of General Belgrano, 160 km (100 miles) west of Buenos Aires, December 18, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Enrique Marcarian

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BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina's main agricultural province of Buenos Aires is restricting the use of pesticides near cities, a measure meant to protect citizens' health that will raise costs for farmers in the world's No. 3 soy and corn supplier.

The agreement was negotiated with farmers, who expect to be compensated for higher costs. Farmers have a contentious relationship with Argentina's federal government and say their profits have been whittled down to nearly nothing by high taxes and export curbs on corn and wheat.

The measure will be announced in a decree in coming months; similar rules are already in effect in the smaller producing provinces of Cordoba and Santa Fe. Buenos Aires province is the world's top producer of soyoil and soymeal.

"Aerial spraying will be prohibited in areas defined by the municipalities, or in the two-kilometer (1.2 mile) boundaries between urban and rural areas," Gustavo Arrieta, minister of agricultural affairs in Buenos Aires province, told Reuters.

He said ground-level application of pesticides would be permitted but would require stricter supervision. Aerial spraying is the most popular and cost effective form of application in Argentina.

The United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization has urged developing countries to withdraw "highly hazardous" pesticides, saying they pose a serious risk to human health and the environment and are often not properly stored and distributed.

The use of pesticides like the weed killer glyphosate took off in South America after U.S.-based Monsanto two decades ago introduced genetically modified seeds that resist the herbicide.

Nearly all soybeans planted in Argentina and neighboring Brazil are genetically modified, as is a majority of corn. Producing traditional crops is much more expensive because yields are lower and losses to pests are greater.

(Reporting by Maximiliano Rizzi; Writing by Caroline Stauffer; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)

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