Excessive pesticide use calls for vigilance to reduce health risks
SEE ALSO :Pesticide use not sustainable for KenyaIt is increasingly looking like the sale of unsafe food is a normal occurrence. Just a few weeks ago, an exposé by local media revealed that certain supermarket outlets were preserving meat using toxic chemicals. Cases of vegetables being grown in raw sewage and toxic polluted city rivers are also rife. In view of Kenya’s health crisis, the question that begs a response is, why are harmful products so easily available to farmers? Why are government agencies not effectively monitoring pesticide residue levels to ensure that they are within the acceptable safety limits? Why are we at the mercy of profit-crazed businesspeople? It is disheartening to note that Kephis, the sector regulator, takes food samples for testing, but the actual levels of pesticides are not made available to the public. Whilst the extent of impact of pesticides on the environment and health of the citizens is not definitively known, isn’t the current epidemic and the risk that pesticides pose reason for fundamental shift in our approach to their regulation? It is simply unacceptable that a third of the registered pesticides in Kenya are withdrawn from the European market, partly because of the toxicity, their long stay in the environment or lack of data. What does this say about the government’s seriousness to protect its citizens? The reality is that every Kenyan is exposed to pesticides which, when sprayed on crops, can end up in the human body through the food, fruits, veggies and drinks that we consume. Granted, agriculture plays a major role in the country’s economy and employs more than 40 per cent of the total population but with the increased pesticide use, it is putting many more people at risk. Food is supposed to nourish us not put us on a fast highway of death. A starting point would be to ensure that pesticide imports and use are strictly monitored, and official, reliable information made publicly available. Government agencies should further enhance information sharing with other countries on: incidents with pesticides, regulatory actions taken, experiences with alternatives to highly hazardous pesticides. Additionally, pesticide regulation in Kenya should be based on the precautionary principle; where enough data is not available, the pesticide should not be in use. The government has a constitutional mandate to protect its citizens. It is not an unreasonable demand therefore, that it should ensure that the food that we are growing and that is being sold locally, is fit for human consumption. Our food security, health, environment and peace of mind are at stake. - The writer is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya
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