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Concerns over double standards on Kenyan products by EU

Farmers and stakeholders in the agricultural sector have raised concern over double standards by some of the European Union (EU) countries.

Despite some countries banning the agro-chemicals, the same chemicals manufactured in the countries are sold to the developing countries within the Global South. And when the farmers in the developing nations apply the same harmful chemicals, often the agro-chemicals are rejected in these countries.

The latest report titled Toxic business: highly hazardous pesticides in Kenya by Route to Food, an initiative by the Heinrich Böll Stiftung Foundation that highlighted the use of highly hazardous agro-chemicals for specific crops, most of which their active ingredients have been banned in European Union market.

The report indicates that of the total 310 products applied by farmers, 151 of them contain active ingredients. A total of 3,068 tonnes of pesticides were applied to control pests, diseases and weeds on 26 different crops (that exclude flowers and ornamentals).

Dr Silke Bollmonr, an ecotoxicologist pointed out that up to 44 per cent of agro-chemicals imported and applied by Kenyan farmers have been banned in Europe due to health risks to humans and environment.

“Only four percent of pesticides used globally being covered under the international convention and harmful pesticides are used and not regulated world over. This can cause irreversible harm on human health and environment and this is critical for country like Kenya where farmers don’t use protective gear or follow the instructions of use of agrochemicals,” noted the researcher.

Highly Hazardous pesticides make up 76 per cent of the total volume of pesticides used by farmers in Kenya, meaning majority of farmers in Kenya use the harmful pesticides despite their detrimental effects to human and environmental health. Only, two per cent accounted for biopesticides.

The maize, wheat, coffee, potatoes and tomatoes are in Kenya require largest volume of pesticides, with heavy reliance on highly hazardous pesticides. When producing maize and wheat, herbicides such as 2.4 –D, S-metazachlor, ghysophate among others.

“83 per cent of chemicals applied on maize is highly hazardous and 44 per cent are banned in Europe. For Tomatoes, 89 per cent are high hazardous pesticides with 79 per cent banned in Europe,” stated Dr Bollmonr.

She called on government to gradually phase out these harmful chemicals banned in the European countries, empower and protect local farmers.

Farmers interviewed stated that they lack information on the use of agro-chemicals, lacked protective gear to cushion themselves from the health risks.

The researchers recommended gradual phasing out of the highly hazardous pesticides based on toxicity that include ghysophate and use of alternatives such as bio-pesticides which have less toxicity.

“Most active ingredients such as chlorpyrifos, acetochlor, glyphosate, 2.4 –D, Mancozeb and chlorothalonil, emphasizes need for immediate withdrawal due to its effects on human health and environment. Active ingredients such as bifenthrin, dichlorovos, diazinon, carbaryl, fipronil, thiamethoxam and carbendazim have already been banned, calling for urgent regulatory measures in Kenya,” reads the report.

In July 2023, Pesticides Control Products Board (PCPB issued a directive on withdrawal of seven active ingredients due to their effects on human and environment.

Recently, more than 12,000 farmers and activists appended signatures to petition supporting removal of harmful agro-chemicals from Kenyan market, piling pressure on parliament to ban more than 200 of these pesticides.

“We want to laud PCPB for withdrawing some the pesticides and we want to encourage to withdraw more of this toxic pesticides from the market,” observes Dr Harun Warui, program lead, Food rights and agro-ecology at Heinrich Böll Foundation.

The report also indicated that Kenyan farmers spent 72.7 US dollars on purchases of pesticide products, covered 635,350 hectares, accounting for 21 per cent of the total pesticide treated area.

“Farmers are paying less than per hectare for toxic pesticides like Marshal, Thunder and Dursban than Biopesticides. Highly toxic pesticides are only because the external environmental and human health costs are not included,” the report states.

A total of 73 different companies serve as brand owners for products sold in Kenya. Sygenta leads with 20 per cent market share, Bayer AG at 15 per cent, Corteva Agriscience at 7.7 per cent, FMC corporation at 5.7 per cent and Adama agricultural solutions at 4.4 per cent.

Also read: Experts warn on use of ‘hazardous’ chemicals in farming