• Pesticides help farmers grow more food on less land by protecting crops from devastating weeds, pests and diseases.
•Without pesticides, agricultural productivity would decline by over 50 per cent, leading to serious food insecurity and collapse of commercial agriculture in the country.
Awaiting determination before the National Assembly is a petition by Uasin Gishu Woman Rep Gladys Shollei seeking to ban some of the products used locally for pest control.
This a very important and weighty issue and we urge everyone to approach it with caution and sobriety. Otherwise, there may be negative consequences to our country’s food security and safety issues in the agriculture sector.
It also behooves scientists to help the public separate myths from reality and to correct the inaccurate comments and misinformation that have so far characterised this debate.
Pesticides help farmers grow more food on less land by protecting crops from devastating weeds, pests and diseases.
Without pesticides, agricultural productivity would decline by over 50 per cent, leading to serious food insecurity and collapse of commercial agriculture in the country.
It is important to note that Kenya happens to be within the tropics, which provides thriving conditions for pests and diseases.
It is, therefore, practically impossible to produce food, fruits and vegetables of commercial quality and quantity without the judicious use of pesticides.
The long and short of this is that to produce sufficient food for our growing population, achieve zero hunger and malnutrition we have no alternative but to continue using pesticides
Without pesticides, the realisation of the government’s Big Four agenda, especially on food security and nutrition, will be a pipe dream.
The Sh153 Billion horticultural sector would definitely collapse if this petition is approved as is. We will not be able to produce for our own consumption and for export.
The blanket ban would also lead to mass unemployment, loss of foreign exchange earnings and also government revenues, which are driven to other important sectors of the economy.
As a fact, there is increased global concern about food and environmental safety and any responsible entity would not just advocate the use of harmful chemicals. Without any fear of contraction, we wish to reiterate that pesticides are not harmful to human beings and the environment if used in accordance to instructions and user guidelines.
Pesticides are one of the most regulated products in the world and Kenya has a globally recognised regulatory framework for the registration, importation and use of pesticides, including restricting, banning etc. put in place following guidelines of FAO pesticide regulation guidelines.
Kenya has the capacity to determine the safety of all pesticides through risk assessment and guided by the provisions of the Pest Control Products Act Cap 346 and associated regulations.
All pesticides registered for use here undergo rigorous risk and safety assessment before approval by the Pest Control Products Board.
Kenya is also a signatory to key international conventions to chemical safety such as the Stockholm Convention (on the protection of human health and the environment from persistent organic pollutants) and the Rotterdam Convention on the Promotion of Shared Responsibility and co-operative efforts among parties in the international trade of certain hazardous chemicals to protect human health and the environment.
The rise of cancer cases maybe be as a result of many factors, inherent and in our environment, including our diets, heredity, misuse of pesticides but not the pesticides themselves. This needs a more indepth discussion, the need to assess relevant exposure to a substance, its dosage and potency, among other things.
End-users need to follow instructions placed on every product label in Kiswahili and English. The anticipated implementation of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicalsonce the review processes are finalised, also seeks to provide additional features on the label.
Farmers should also be urged to use professionally trained spray service providers to not only apply the pesticides safely, but also protect the environment by safely disposing of the empty pesticide containers.
Legal regulations that concern the observance of pre-harvest intervals for fresh produce also need to be enforced as well as sustained and concerted awareness creation for consumers, marketers and producers on the proper handling of foodstuff along the produce supply chain.
Kenyans should be wary of pseudo-experts out to cause unnecessary fear and anxiety by disseminating information that is not supported by science.
It would be extremely unfair and reckless for Kenya to blanket ban pesticides that are approved and are still in use in other parts of the world, instead of allowing the case by case scientific evaluation.
Policymakers should engage experts both nationally and internationally before deciding on the petition. This is the public’s expectation of their esteemed role on this issue. We should not allow scientific evidence to be replaced by activism.
Simiyu is the director of Regulatory Affairs and Stakeholder Relations
Croplife Africa Middle East