KENYA – The Pest Control Products Board (PCPB) of Kenya has taken a resolute stand to protect the nation’s agriculture, environment, and human health by ordering the immediate termination of the registration and use of several widely-used pesticides, including Chlorothalonil, Diuron, Thiacloprid, Pymetrozine, Propineb, and Chlorpyrifos.

This seismic move follows mounting concerns about the detrimental impact of these chemicals on crops, livestock, and human well-being.

In a letter that has reverberated through Kenya’s agricultural landscape, Esther Kimani, the CEO of PCPB, underscored the urgent need to address the alarming safety and trade issues surrounding these pesticides.

The decision was propelled by growing evidence of their adverse effects on crops, livestock, and human health, including potential carcinogenic and reproductive toxicant properties.

The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) embarked on research earlier in the year to see whether there is a connection between the use of pesticides on crops and the rise in cancer incidence in the Mount Kenya region.

Statistics provided by Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung have also indicated that one or more active components in 76 percent of the total amount of pesticides used in Kenya fall under the category of “Highly Hazardous Pesticides” (HHPs).

In 2021, the then Uasin Gishu Woman Representative Gladys Boss Shollei sought the ban of at least 200 locally used chemicals. She argued that the cancer-causing herbicides and pesticides banned in the United States and Europe were still being imported and sold in Kenya despite the health risks it poses to the people.

The PCPB however pushed back the ban pointing out that it has stringent ways of vetting pesticides used in Kenya. Nevertheless, it embarked on a review of more than 200 pesticides used in the country upon a request by the National Assembly in light of the petition before Parliament on these chemicals use.

The two popular ingredients recommended for a ban, Cypermethrin and  Chlorpyrifos are present in most coffee pesticides in Kenya.

Pymetrozine: Silent threat to health

Pymetrozine, previously in wide use, has now been classified as a suspected human carcinogen and reproductive toxicant. The decision to phase out its use on all crops by the end of 2024 is aimed at curbing its potential impact on agricultural produce and human health.

Thiacloprid: Multifaceted menace

Thiacloprid, a pesticide linked to fertility risks, prenatal development issues, and carcinogenicity, is facing immediate withdrawal. The phased termination of its use by the end of 2024 seeks to eliminate its potential harm to both human health and the environment.

Diuron’s controversial carcinogenicity

Diuron, which has drawn concerns for its specific target organ toxicity and suspected carcinogenic potential, will see its agricultural use come to an end by December 2024. This decision echoes classifications from reputable sources like the European Union and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Chlorothalonil: Risk to aquatic life

Chlorothalonil, with its high long-term risks to aquatic organisms, will be phased out by the end of 2024. The board’s decisive action aligns with its commitment to safeguarding aquatic ecosystems and reducing environmental harm.

Propineb: Unwanted effects on health

Propineb, known for its toxicity in warm and humid climates, will no longer find its way into edible crops. The board’s stringent directive for revised labeling and immediate termination of ongoing registrations reflects its determination to ensure public health and safety.

Chlorpyrifos and the global market

The board’s concern about the excessive presence of Chlorpyrifos and Chlorpyrifos Methyl in export crops, particularly coffee beans, has prompted a substantial response. The directive to restrict their use exclusively to building and construction represents a strategic effort to maintain market access while prioritizing safety.

Pesticide misuse

The PCPB’s resolute action stems from a larger global issue: the misuse and overuse of pesticides. The detrimental consequences on biodiversity and beneficial insect populations, coupled with reduced food safety, underscore the urgent need for a reevaluation of pesticide practices.

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO’s) estimation that nearly three million people suffer from pesticide poisoning annually, resulting in around 200,000 deaths, shines a harsh spotlight on the global pesticide problem. In Kenya alone, a staggering 350,000 pesticide poisoning cases are reported every year.

The PCPB’s sweeping ban on hazardous pesticides marks a turning point in Kenya’s agricultural landscape. By addressing safety and health concerns, the board has taken a significant step toward sustainable agriculture and protecting the livelihoods of countless farmers and consumers.

This landmark decision serves as a call to action for countries worldwide to reevaluate their pesticide practices and prioritize the well-being of their people and environments.

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