Brazil went from near zero in soybean production in1952 to become “a world powerhouse” for that commodity, Gianessi says. “But all that was threatened in 2001 by soybean rust, which had spread throughout the country by 2003, in some instances claiming up to 75 percent of the crop. Their fungicide market went from $25 million to $1 billion in one decade, and Brazil is now the single largest market globally for soybean fungicides. The ‘Brazilian soybean miracle’ has been possible because of fungicides.”

Maize is the main food for 50 percent of the population in Africa, he says, but average yield was only 1.6 tons per hectare, compared to the world average of 4.5 tons. “With pesticide use, yields have gone up 27 percent to 47 percent.

“Weeding of crops in Africa has historically been done by women and children. Estimates are that there are 100 million women spending 20 billion hours weeding crops. But even that is not enough — estimates are that 40 billion hours are needed just to control weeds.

“CropLife Zambia has trained people to recognize weeds and to apply herbicides with backpack sprayers. Once people see how effective this is, they want to use it. CARE Zambia asked to evaluate program, and reported a tripling of maize yields where herbicides have been used. It has provided jobs and income for the applicators, and it has freed millions of women for other work.

“This technology is being adopted not because some deep thinker at the United Nations or World Bank is saying to adopt it — but because farmers are seeing what their neighbors are doing and what a difference this technology can make.”

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Africa is being transformed from rural to urban, Gianessi says. “Cities are growing exponentially. There are now 300 million in urban areas, with projections of 1 billion by 2050 — faster growth than in China. Some of the fastest-growing economies in the world are in Africa, and more people are finding jobs in industrial sectors.

“This is resulting in consumption of more and different foods. In sub-Saharan Africa, potato consumption has increased by a factor of three over the past 20 years, but yields have remained basically stagnant. So, they were tearing out trees to plant more acres to get more yield — that is not sustainable agriculture. With fungicide use, potato yields have been increased by 224 percent.”

Without pesticides, Gianess says, China’s rice production would be reduced by 67 percent, wheat by 57 percent. “But the scenario of millions of hungry Chinese is being avoided with the use of these technologies.”

Information on the work of the foundation can be found at, where there is also a link to Gianessi’s blog: