Pesticides are a major tool for the intensification of agriculture, and helped to increase food, feed and biofuel production. Yet, there are persistent concerns about the negative effects of pesticides in human health and the environment, particularly in low and middle income countries (LMICs). Given the lack of information on pesticide exposure and hazard, Colombia exemplifies the need to narrow the information gap on pesticide risk in LMICs. We assessed pesticide hazard in Colombia based on the official toxicity categorization, compared it to more integral international standards, and identified main actions to narrow this information gap. Results showed that Colombia has been a relevant regional actor in pesticide production and trade, reaching almost 75 million kilogrammes and liters sold in 2016. Based on acute toxicity for humans, a quarter of the amount of pesticides sales and imports, and a third of the exports in 2016 ranged from moderately to extremenly toxic. The top-selling agrochemicals in 2016 (glyphosate with 14% of the total sales, chlorpyrifos 7.5% and mancozeb 6.9%) are also commonly used in other countries, reflecting a homogenized global industry. Compared to integral international categorizations, we found that for that year 63% of the pesticides sold with slightly acute toxicity are actually considered highly hazardous pesticides (HHP) for humans or the environment, evidencing the need to use a more integral hazard categorization in the country. Narrowing the information gap in pesticide use and associated risks demands a transparent process of knowledge creation and sharing, including funtional information and monitoring systems. This should be part of an integral assessment and regulation that better defines HHP, their production and trade to reduce pesticide risk while informing a transition towards sustainable food systems.
- Acute toxicity
- Highly hazardous pesticides
- Human health
- Low and middle income countries