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Gallery: Intensive agriculture in Vietnam

Growing use of pesticides and chemicals to boost crop yields is creating an environmental crisis across the Mekong Delta

The Mekong Delta is often referred to as the rice bowl of Vietnam, which in turn is one of Southeast Asia’s largest agricultural exporters.

In order to maintain such high levels of productivity, farmers have started to plant a third annual yield for their rice crops. This practice means that nutrients that used to return naturally to the soil between the two traditional crops no longer have a chance to, so farmers have turned to chemicals. They are also planting larger fields for bigger yields of other crops, with mass production of livestock and fish farming at close quarters.

Farmers in Vietnam have invested heavily in pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, antibiotics, and other agrochemicals to meet their production demands. Yet, while these agrochemicals and pesticides ensure reliable yields, they are making their way into the region’s water table, into the Mekong River and eventually into the ocean via Vietnam’s extensive network of irrigation canals.

Traces of these products are also being found in food produced in Vietnam, be it meat, fish, fruit, vegetables or staples like rice and potatoes.

This is having a terrible effect on the livelihoods and health of those living in the region and throughout Vietnam, and wreaking havoc on the natural environment.

Increased cases of food poisoning and cancer are rampant throughout Vietnam with official statistics showing that contaminated food is responsible for at least 35% of new hospital cases.

This biggest concern is that Vietnam’s consumption and use of agrochemicals is actually on the rise, with around 100,000 tonnes of chemicals imported annually, mainly from China. This begs the question: What price is Vietnam willing to pay to produce more food?

This article is republished with minor changes from The Third Pole

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