A German lobby has urged lawmakers in Europe to put in place measures that will compel firms to end the sale of cancer-causing pesticides to Kenya.
The Heinrich Boell Foundation also expressed concerns over the continued export of chemicals to Kenya by German firms in the agricultural value chain that are no longer sold in Europe as they are proven to harm human health and the environment.
Some of the active ingredients used in the manufacture of pesticides and herbicides in question cause cancer, affect the human reproductive system and causes extinction of certain insect species.
It also results in starvation and disappearance of some bird species. The move by the German foundation, which has projects in Kenya on democracy, environment and human rights, is against concerns raised locally about the surge in chemicals being used by Kenya’s agriculture sector.
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A number of these products contain ingredients that are no longer used in the manufacture of pesticides in other markets, particularly Europe, North America and parts of Asia.
The Route to Food Initiative in a recent report noted that the despite firms from such regions as Europe flooding Kenya and other countries with their toxic products; they are prohibited from selling the same products in their home countries.
The move is also sanctioned by EU laws, which ban the use of certain active ingredients in pesticides sold in EU but Okays the use of such banned ingredients in making products that are exported to other markets.
Heinrich Boell Foundation President Barbara Unmüßig urged Kenya not to follow the route of developed countries in growing agricultural sectors through mechanisation and use of chemicals.
“The importation of this model of agriculture to Kenya means that European firms including German companies such as Bayer, Syngenta and BSF are bringing chemical products to your country, some of which have active ingredients that are no longer in use or licensed in Europe,” she said. “They are not approved for use in developed markets because of their negative impact on human health and the environment.”
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The Foundation has close ties with Germany’s Green Party which it will utilise to push agenda to have German firms export same quality products as those they sell to farmers in their home country.
“Such practice very much triggers my responsibility as a citizen of Germany to make Germans aware that its firms are exporting products that would not be delivered to German farmers because they are unsafe. The German Government should hold our companies accountable for such practices that should not be happening in the 21st century,” she said.
“Through the foundation, we will talk to decision-makers, lobby the Green Party to table the issue in Parliament and talk to the Ministries responsible to act and make sure that the firms are held to account and more importantly stop the exports.”
German has signed the covenant to the right to food and it must protect food from interferences that may limit access, she observed.
German firms are among the major players in the local agricultural sector. Some of the products that they sell in Kenya range from pesticides and fungicides to seeds do not pass the requirements set in their home country as well as the larger EU market.
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According to an RTFI report, the products registered in Kenya are mostly sold by European companies (75 products), followed by firms from China (55 products) and India (16 products).
The report noted that at least 32 per cent of the active ingredients used in the manufacture of products sold in Kenya pose serious effects on human and environmental health.
They are withdrawn from the European market. Importation of pesticides with toxic chemicals more than doubled within four years from 6,400 tonnes in 2015 to 15,600 tonnes in 2018.
Kenya and Africa generally, face the challenge of feeding millions of people in a food secure environment and the prospects of increasing agricultural produce always look appealing, with health and environmental safety concerns sometimes being put in the backburner.
While the use of these chemicals has increased food production, Unmüßig urged Kenya to avoid such route, adding that the country can be food sufficient without heavy reliance on pesticides and herbicides.
Among the areas that the country needs to fix include the huge losses that farmers incur in post-harvest handling of food produce.
She rooted for expansion of agricultural production to feed over 10 billion people globally by 2050 by use of technology without pesticides.
This, she noted, can be aided by clever methods to harvest rainwater, any country can be food secure.
“There is a lot of knowledge on how to deal with pests but has not been widely shared,” said Unmüßig, adding that massive of chemicals in Europe for long has resulted in the disappearance of some species of birds as they no longer have insects to feed on.
“We also need better infrastructure to help farmers get their food into the market. We know how much food is spoilt because it is not brought to the market on time. You do not have to poison people to feed them. There are a lot of alternatives but big agro-firms and politicians with a financial interest in the pesticide industry are the reason why knowledge is not transferred to the people.”
It is estimated that Kenyans wasted food worth Sh150 billion last year, according to a Kenya National Bureau of Statistics report.