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Experts raise alarm over chemical dense farm produce

By Milliam Murigi
Tuesday, October 13th, 2020
Pesticide control. Photo/Courtesy
In summary

Milliam Murigi @millymur1

As more city dwellers venture into urban farming, one question that lingers in the minds of many is whether the food they grow is safe, considering air pollution, street garbage and who-knows-what substances are in the soil, water, and air. 

This is with a notion that products that come from the rural areas are safer to consume compared to the crops grown in the cities.

However, a new survey has revealed that this assumption might be wrong since some farmers in rural areas are using toxic pesticides that are harmful to both humans and the environment.

Dubbed Pesticide use in Murang’ a and Kirinyaga Counties, a wakeup call for better pest control strategies, the survey reveals that farmers are using toxic pesticides withdrawn from European countries to grow their crops, which eventually find their way to our city markets.

The research also established that pesticide residues in tomatoes and kale exceeded the regulation standards making the samples collected from the market unfit for human consumption.

“High residues of toxic pesticides were found in kales and tomatoes sold in the local markets.

Additionally, these toxic pesticides are also used in maize, coffee and cabbages,” reads part of the report.

Conducted by Kenya Organic Agriculture Network (KOAN) and Eco-Trac Consulting, the survey petitions the government to train extension officers and increase budget allocation for extension services.

According to KOAN CEO Eustace Kiarii, there is still a lack of knowledge on sustainable farming systems using less or no pesticides among farmers, extension officers, regulators, and the public.

And while farmers and rural residents are frequently and directly exposed to pesticides, consumers are also at risk through the residues in food and drinking water.

The report also reveals that agrovet dealers have been on the frontline contributing to this problem, because they recommend pesticide products, which are proven to have certain chronic health effects. 

“We found out that toxic pesticides like carbendazim, chlorothalonil, and permethrin, which have been withdrawn in Europe, due to their serious chronic effect are still in use in the two counties,” says Kiarii.

Since pesticides are deliberately designed to kill insects, many have an impact on the ecosystem, including fish, pollinators, earthworms, and other important soil organisms.

These effects are made worse, if mitigation measures, such as buffer zones, recommended spraying times and spraying rates, and directions on target crops are not followed.