The Pest Control Products Board (PCPB) has warned that excessive use and misuse of pesticides was causing loss of biodiversity, destroying beneficial insect population and reducing food safety.
The Board indicated that although national regulators globally were concerned about the health risks posed by pesticide residues in food, most experts and policy makers continued to underestimate pesticides’ effect on non-target organisms.
PCPB Board Chairman Njoroge Kagwe said there was a growing need for farmers to be educated on the environmentally safe methods of applying pesticides and the frequencies that would help reduce the risks.
“Pesticides can kill non-target crops, insects and animals, and can poison food, putting consumers at grave risk and therefore their levels must be monitored regularly by the extension staff working with farmers,” advised the board chair.
He said although pesticides significantly contribute to enhancing food security globally, there was need to ensure the safety of Kenyans even as the agricultural authorities promote production of crops to ensure food security.
The Board chairman who spoke during a meeting between PCPB Board members and Nakuru County officials, advised that farmers should only buy properly labelled and authorized pesticides that are environmentally friendly to guarantee consumer safety.
While noting that pesticides could persist in the environment for decades, pollute water resources and pose a threat to the entire ecological system, Kagwe cautioned farmers against purchasing the products from unauthorized sellers, most of whom he said hawk the pesticides around at a cheap price.
PCPB is a government institution in charge of regulating importation, exportation, manufacture, distribution and safe use of control product.
The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that nearly three million people are poisoned and 200,000 die every year. In Kenya, about 350,000 cases of pesticide poisoning are reported annually.
Nakuru County Executive Committee Member in charge of Agriculture Leonard Bor, however assured that the county will work together with the board to train farmers on the proper use of pesticides to ensure sustainable and safe ways to produce food in addition to ensuring that spray service providers are trained and registered.
While observing that pesticide overuse was a threat to food safety, the CECM said some of Kenya’s horticultural products destined for export markets have in the past been intercepted based on Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) – which is the maximum concentration of pesticides that are either not permitted in the markets or exceeds the set limits.
He cited cut flowers sector and more recently beans and avocados horticultural sectors which he said have been affected by pesticides challenges, and advised all agrochemicals’ companies to ensure proper use of their products through adequate labelling using the widely used national language and take responsibility where harm occurs due to lack of sufficient information.
The CECM underscored the need to step up surveillance and monitoring at ports of entry, including airports and border posts, to ensure that unscrupulous traders do not smuggle into the country deadly chemicals and substances that may jeopardize food production.
The department of agriculture he added was partnering with research institutions in working towards a situation where use of chemical pest control will be a last resort after bio-friendly measures are found to have failed.
HE expressed the need to strengthen pesticide risk regulation, research and education to yield possible alternatives and putting a stop to importation of all the pesticides banned in the European Union.
He proposed that the PCPB be empowered to access data on environmental and human health impacts during the registration and re-registration process of products
Experts have warned that many farmers in Kenya rely on profit-driven agro vets rather than agricultural extension officers to manage pests and diseases. This has led to proliferation of crop protection products in the country, particularly those that are banned in Europe and elsewhere in the world.
Records from the Pest Control Products Board (PCPB) indicate that Kenya has banned 43 products and restricted the importation and use of five others. The board is now working with an international partner to train Kenyans on what to look out for. This is vital as pesticide use in Africa has increased by nearly 70 per cent between 1999 and 2021.
The United Nations has also warned that 40 percent of the planet’s insect pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, risk global extinction, which would have serious implications for food production and ecosystem health.
By Esther Mwangi and Okello Tracy