The health benefits of eating blueberries, strawberries and raspberries are well-known but growing them isn’t quite as beneficial for human well-being and the economy, an environmental advocacy group argues.
The Citizens’ Observatory for Integrated Water Management in Jalisco says that berry production on the Tapalpa plateau in the south of the state is less lucrative than tourism, and doesn’t provide significant employment or have a positive spillover effect on other sectors of the economy.
In addition, the pressure the industry places on the local water supply and its negative impact on water quality from its use of pesticides is indisputable, the group claims.
Observatory coordinator Juan Guillermo Márquez Gutiérrez told the newspaper Milenio that poor water quality poses a threat to the entire Lagunas region, which comprises several municipalities surrounding Tapalpa.
The organization consequently made 23 recommendations to the state government and three separate municipalities in December 2016, but more than a year later Márquez said that little progress has been made. He described authorities’ attempts to address concerns as “lukewarm.”
“In relation to the recommendations, as is usual in the state government and the [state] Environment Secretariat, there wasn’t a timely response . . .” Márquez said, adding that authorities have acted slowly on purpose because it suits them to do so.
“There are communities that are being denied water supply but the berry agro-industry still has all the water it asks for . . . the actions they [government authorities] are promoting . . . do little or nothing to help in the case of Tapalpa and the region,” he added.
Márquez also argued that the industry only provides “poorly paid jobs” and doesn’t take “due precautions for the management of pesticides.” The harmful effects on health are already becoming evident, he said.
The group coordinator believes that poor water management — including inadequate waste management — and the consequent contamination may be linked to cancer cases, gastrointestinal illnesses and kidney disease that have been reported in the region.
Government documents obtained via freedom of information laws confirm that health concerns are ongoing, Márquez said.
He also pointed out that 95% of the berries grown in Tapalpa are exported to the United States where the vast majority of profits remain.
Meanwhile, local residents are left to pay the greatest price because they are exposed to health risks from contaminated water and jornaleros, or day laborers, are exploited economically by low wages.
“. . . It’s worth considering how much the region and the state benefits . . .” Márquez said, adding that “drawing attention to this [problem] is urgent.”
“The magnitude of the pressure on the environment and health, on people and ecosystems — which is more than obvious — is going to result in a high degree of damage,” he added.
By the end of this week, the Observatory is expected to issue a new series of recommendations and will insist that authorities respond to its previous recommendations, arguing that they are legally required to do so.
The overexploitation of ground wells, aging and failing water infrastructure and a lack of transparency regarding what kinds of pesticides the agro-industry is using and their effects on the environment are all issues of concern that the Citizen Observatory will seek to address in its new advice.
Source: Milenio (sp)