In an opinion article published in the February 18 edition of the Business Daily and titled “Pesticides ban in Kenya needs urgent assessment’, Eric Kimungunyi, the CEO of Agrochemicals Association of Kenya, makes a rather appalling suggestion that the pesticides proposed to be banned in Kenya are not harmful to humans.
This is a complete disregard of the huge volume of evidence available which speaks to the extremely dangerous effects of these pesticides on humans and other living organisms.
An expose by Nation Media Group news teams proved that some pesticides used in crop production were among the pollutants slowly sucking life out of the world’s second largest freshwater body; Lake Victoria.
The investigative piece gathered evidence by analysing water samples from the Lake.The evidence gathered found residues of Permethrin and Chlorpyrifos pesticides in the water.
Coincidentally, these are among the pesticides proposed to be banned in Kenya.
These active ingredients are currently not approved for use in Europe according to Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council.
This is because of their toxicity to aquatic and human life. Chlorpyrifos has genotoxic potential which means that it can affect the cell genetic material (DNA) of an individual. It is also toxic for reproduction; it may cause damage to the unborn child. In January 2020, the approval for use of the active ingredient, Chlorpyrifos was not renewed by the European Union Commission.
Member States were asked to withdraw authorisations for plant protection products containing Chlorpyrifos as an active substance by 16th February 2020 because of its association with development and adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes in children.
Their occurrence in the Lake certainly puts at risk the health of thousands of Kenyans that depend on the lake for their livelihood.
It is therefore misleading for Mr Kimungunyi to suggest that these pesticides are not harmful to human consumption as they are still in countries such as Australia and the United States of America.
Contrary to his statement, on the policy section of the Agrochemical Association of Kenya’s website, it states that ‘No pesticide can be registered in Kenya without proof that it has already been approved for use in a developed country with a reputable risk assessment regime, such as the European Union (EU) and other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries.’
Was any due diligence carried out in regards to these harmful pesticides? What process was followed in their registration?
The occurrence of these active ingredients in Lake Victoria is sufficient evidence that our health and environment is at stake.
The pesticides proposed to be banned indeed have negative effects not only on aquatic life but our health too.
Kenya needs to set its own standards when it comes to pests control. These standards should be more rigorous than the EU ones.
Farmers also have sustainable pests control practices that can protect the quality of the food we eat.
We should not sit and watch companies make profits at the expense of our health and natural resources. We should not allow them to violate our right to a clean and healthy environment as recognised and protected under Article 42 of the Constitution.
It is in this spirit and guided by Article 70 of the Constitution that Greenpeace Africa seeks to have the harmful pesticides discontinued from use in Kenya.
Claire Nasike food campaigner, Greenpeace Africa.