Withdraw harmful agrochemicals from the market
The Route to Food Initiative (RTFI), Biodiversity and Biosafety Association of Kenya (BIBA-K), Kenya Organic Agriculture Network (KOAN) and Resources Oriented Development Initiatives (RODI) are pushing for the immediate withdrawal of pesticides in Kenya, containing active ingredients that are toxic to human health and the environment, and that threaten food security and affect food safety in the country.
At least 32% of pesticide active ingredients that are currently registered and being sold in products in Kenya, have been withdrawn from the European market, due to their serious potential impact on human and environmental health.
We are calling for the withdrawal of specific active ingredients which can have multiple chronic health effects and are found in many products in the country, despite a move in other regions around the world to enact regulations to curb the use of toxic pesticides. These active ingredients include, but are not limited to, permethrin, carbendazim and acephate.
It is disconcerting to note that the sale of these chemicals, many of which are not approved in Europe, is going on unabated with little regard to public health and environmental safety. Our findings show that there are 24 products in the Kenyan market, which are certainly classified as carcinogenic, meaning they have the potential to cause cancer while the same number (24) are mutagenic, meaning these substances have the capacity to cause damaging genetic changes. Others have been proven to negatively affect hormones and show clear effects on reproduction.
With the volume of these imported chemicals more than doubling within four years from 6,400 tonnes in 2015 to 15,600 tonnes in 2018, we are concerned that farmers as well as consumers are directly exposed to highly toxic pesticides. Withdrawing these products from the market will reduce their availability to farmers and would be an urgent and significant step in trying to reduce the adverse effects pesticides pose to our health and food safety. The assumptions, such as ‘safe use’ and labeling, that inform whether a pesticide is registered in Europe is different in Kenya which may lead to higher exposure risk for farmers, consumers and the environment.
Through the Pest Control Products Board (PCPB) there are 247 active ingredients registered in 699 products for horticultural use.
There are more products than active ingredients since one active ingredient can be in different formulations registered by different companies in different products. The active ingredient glyphosate for example, is registered in 39 products by 22 companies.
In addition, products registered in Kenya, that are withdrawn from the European market, are mostly sold by European companies (75 products), followed by Chinese companies (55 products) and Indian companies (16 products). The level of exposure to this toxicity is therefore on all and sundry. Residues are found everywhere – in our food, our drinking water, in the rain and in the air and thus the call for immediate action.
Historically, excessive use and misuse of pesticides has been linked to contamination of surrounding soil and water sources, causing loss of biodiversity, destroying beneficial insect populations that act as natural enemies of pests and reducing the nutritional value of food.
While regulators are mostly concerned about health risks through pesticide residues, their effect on non-target organisms are hugely underestimated, especially in African registration procedures. Pesticides can persist in the environment for decades and pose a global threat to the entire ecological system upon which food production depends.
The responsible national and county government authorities should implement regular monitoring of food produce, processed foods and the natural environment, and address issues such as transparency and data gaps, in an effort to curb the rising issues of pesticide use in Kenya.
This should be tempered with sensitization of farmers and consumers on sustainable, ecological farming alternatives and healthy food choices.
Learn more about the use of pesticides in Kenya, and suitable alternatives by watching The Food Challenge documentaries, and engage with us online using #ToxicBusiness.
This article was adapted from a press release issued by the RTFI, RODI, BIBA-K and KOAN on 19th August 2019.