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Economy

Health, agriculture officials clash on safety of herbicide

Agriculture Principal Secretary Prof Hamadi Boga
Agriculture Principal Secretary Prof Hamadi Boga addresses members of Senate Joint Committees on Health and Agriculture on September 25, 2019. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NMG 

Government officials have clashed over continued use of a Mosanto weed killer round up in the Kenyan market despite global concern over its safety.

Health Principal Secretary Susan Mochache told Senate Wednesday that research had established there was possible human health effect in exposure to the product used widely around the world.

Her Agriculture counterpart Hamadi Boga however maintained that scientific evidence has not linked the glyphosate-based herbicides — commonly known as roundup—with cancer in humans under normal use.

“In view of the already established possible health effect from use of glyphosate, the Ministry recommends removal of such herbicides to safeguard the public against risks of exposure,” she said.

Prof Boga told the joint Senate Agriculture and Health committee that the chemical, by mode of its action, is made to target plants in the form of herbs and not animals.

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“Just by looking at its structure, I guarantee you glyphosate is degradable. This debate is clearly not about safety, but about trust,” he said.

Control weeds

Glyphosate-based herbicides are typically applied before crops are sown to control weeds.

Prof Boga said that given its non-selective nature, glyphosate is not applied directly to crops and therefore the possibility of residues occurring in high levels in edible parts of the crops is minimal.

But Ms Mochache said glyphosate had been detected in air during spraying, in water and in food.

“It has also been detected in the blood and urine of agricultural workers indicating absorption,” she said.

She said products containing glyphosate may cause serious eye damage, skin irritation, kidney failure and cancer.

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