KENYA – The Pest Control Products Board (PCPB), an agency that regulates the importation and exportation, manufacture, registration, distribution and use of pesticides in the country, has announced it will conduct a risk analysis of pesticides sold in Kenya, following a directive from a parliamentary committee.

The committee had issued a report on a 2019 petition by the Biodiversity and Biosafety Association of Kenya, Kenya Organic Agriculture Network, Resources Oriented Initiative Kenya and Route to Food Initiative.

The petition was tabled in the National Assembly by Uasin Gishu Woman Representative Gladys Boss Shollei.

The groups sought the injunction of 485 pesticide products from shop shelves, citing affliction of irreparable harm to unsuspecting consumers.

They argued that some of the products had been banned in Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States but were still readily available in Kenya and on consumers’ plates every day.

During a workshop on food safety, the PCPB Chief Executive Officer Esther Kimani said a team had been formed to analyze the products and ascertain their impact on human health, consequently heartening the farmers and consumers.

“We have a team of experts who are in the process of doing risk analysis on the provided pesticides. The public participation will help us to make recommendations on which ones we shall restrict and those that will be banned,” Dr Kimani said.

According to the PCB CEO, the country lacks sufficient data hence it needs to erect systems that will support research. She informed that the board has initiated the review process of all the pesticides in the Kenyan market and is also building the first laboratory in Kenya to strengthen the monitoring of pesticide use.

Of the 485 products, 24 are carcinogenic, 24 can cause damage to genetic changes, 35 can interfere with the hormonal system, 140 can affect the nervous system and 262 show effects on reproduction.

Chlorothalonil, widely used as a fungicide and present in 20 products in Kenya, has a negative impact on reproduction and its breakdown product might cause DNA damage.Permethrin, withdrawn in Europe in 2003 and used to manage post-harvest losses in Kenya, is likely carcinogenic.

Carbendazim, registered for broad-spectrum control of rust, blight and other fungal diseases in vegetables and staple crops, was debarred in Europe in 2011.Dimethoate, registered for use in coffee, potatoes, cotton and carrots, is also considered carcinogenic and was withdrawn in the European market.

PCPB has now singled out limited understanding of pesticide labels among farmers, lack of proper information and knowledge on the use of pesticides as causing high levels of maximum residue limits (MRLs). As a consequence, only a small amount of Kenyan produce is sold in international markets such as the European Union (EU).

The regulator also says some small-scale farmers handle and apply pesticides without using appropriate personal protective equipment.

“Most of the products are used for minor crops. There is the niche but no pesticides registered for that use. We need to get alternatives and what we are doing is fast-tracking the registration of new products such as bio-pesticides or those for the emerging pests,” voiced Dr Kimani.

She enlightened that the country’s tropical climate makes it susceptible to a high number of pests and diseases thus, pesticides can help surge volumes and improve quality of produce when appropriately applied.

FAO estimates that annually between 20 to 40 percent of global crop production are lost to pests. Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture highlights the need for pesticides quoting that pests and diseases are liable for losses in agricultural produce of between 30 and 40 per cent.

According to Daily Nation, Dr Kimani noted that there is a need to create awareness on the safe use of pesticides and ensure professionals have a greater role in the food chain to improve the safe use of pesticides.

Through a KSh400 million (US$ 3661327.20) EU-funded programme in collaboration with the Kenyan Ministry of Industry, Trade and Cooperatives, (UNIDO) and other stakeholders are promoting food safety in 12 counties, aiming to improve market access for locally grown to increase exports.