Agencies put to task over harmful agro-chemicals

A lawmaker has petitioned two government agencies over the continued use of harmful agricultural chemicals by local farmers.

Uasin Gishu County Women Representative Gladys Shollei in a petition tabled in the National Assembly last week said the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (Kephis) and the Pest Control Products Board (PCPB) had contravened local laws and global codes of conduct, exposing Kenyans to different chronic ailments.

Shollei now wants the Government to ban dozens of the products currently being used by Kenyan farmers, arguing that they can cause cancer and other health complications.

The ailments, she said, not only affect the farmers who are not equipped to handle the poisonous pesticides but also unwitting consumers.

“The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services has been contravening Section 15 of the Pest Control Product by failing to publish information on the actual levels of pesticides in food samples collected and putting in place regular monitoring system,” she said in the petition.

“The Pest Control Products Board has not been following the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organisation International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management.”

A recent report by non-governmental organisation Route to Food identifies more than 100 pest control products sold in Kenya that contain harmful chemicals and have been banned in other markets.

Health risks

A majority of the products that are manufactured using harmful chemicals or active ingredients are manufactured by European firms but are not allowed to retail there but are instead meant for export. Shollei in her petition recommended “an immediate ban of all products in the Kenyan market classified as carcinogenic, mutagenic, endocrine disrupters, neurotoxic and many others which show clear effects on reproduction toxicity.

“…. the Government to withdraw all harmful and toxic pesticides in Kenya’s market based on the active ingredients used that pose serious health risks to Kenya and develops and implements a strategy to remove such harmful pesticides from the market, recognising that it can take several years for products to be completely unavailable through local shops and dealers.”

She also added that the Pest Control Products Act should be amended to include a list of pesticides that have been withdrawn from the market in a bid to ensure they are not reintroduced in the market in future.

“There are products in the Kenyan market, which are certainly classified as carcinogenic (24 products), mutagenic (24), endocrine disrupter (35), neurotoxic (140) and many which show clear effects on reproduction toxicity (262), many of which have been banned in Europe, the United Kingdom and the USA,” added the lawmaker.

Various nations around the world have joined the call to abolish one such chemical - popular glyphosate-based weed killer RoundUp - following a wave of lawsuits against the manufacturer Monsanto and parent company Bayer after several users were diagnosed with cancer.

At least 30 countries have so far prohibited or restricted the use of glyphosate, but Kenya has remained non-committal on the issue.

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