Pesticide ban: ‘No silver bullet’, warns CropLife


Growing pressure, especially from farm workers, has forced the Ministry of Agriculture, Agrarian Reform and Rural Development to ban more than 60 pesticides believed to be harmful to people.

While scientific evidence supports public concerns that some of these pesticides may actually cause cancers and genetic disorders and affect reproductive health, one expert says the real issue is better protection for farm workers.

The Department of Agriculture, Agrarian Reform and Rural Development will eliminate approximately 64 active ingredients and formulations of pesticides harmful to humans. It intends to ban the use of these harmful products from June 1, 2024.

Reggie Ngcobo, spokesman for Minister Thoko Didiza, told Food For Mzansi that “Given the widespread sale and use of the products, the department wishes to put pressure on all manufacturers, registrants and users to that they use this period to phase out existing stocks”.

He said that on April 14, 2022, a notice had been issued clearly indicating the deadlines by which carcinogenic, mutagenic and reprotoxic chemicals (CMR chemicals) would be banned in South Africa.

“No quick fix”

Elriza Theron, Marketing and Communications Manager for CropLife South Africa. Photo: Supplied/Food for Mzansi

Meanwhile, Elriza Theron, marketing and communications manager for CropLife South Africa, points to what she sees as “a bigger problem” – farm workers are not provided with protective clothing when working with pesticides. .

She tells Food For Mzansi that pesticides only become a cause of health problems when they are applied incorrectly, or when protective clothing is not worn and/or clear product instructions are not provided. followed.

“If products are used precisely according to label directions with the accompaniment of personal protective clothing, harm to humans is mitigated,” she explains.

While some civil organizations representing farmworkers in Mzansi have also denounced the harmful nature of some pesticides to humans, Theron argues that there is no silver bullet to this global problem.

“It depends on a breadth of factors, which includes a substance’s inherent toxicity to mammals, the route of exposure, the dose of exposure, the person’s age and the person’s physical condition.”

Toxicity, she says, is one thing, but issues of dose and risk make it more complex. It must therefore be considered in this context. “The dose makes it a poison or a cure, which is why it is imperative that any product, whether household, medicinal or pest control, be used according to label directions.”

No facilities to dispose of harmful pesticides

Amid the banning of some pesticides, some farmworkers have called on the government to review the country’s “old” agricultural pesticide regulations. Currently, the pesticide industry is regulated by the Fertilizers, Farm Feeds, Seeds and Remedies Act (FFFAR) which dates back to 1947.

A draft regulation concerning the prohibition of CMR chemicals was published in the Official Journal on June 18, 2021 and is in line with the pesticide management policy published in 2010.

Ngcobo tells Food For Mzansi that the department of Didiza is currently consolidating public comments received on this matter. The ministry hopes to finalize this process before the end of the year.

“There weren’t many comments. They were [mostly] relevant industry stakeholders (manufacturers and users as well as advocacy groups, especially those who oppose the use of these products).

Asked why these comments have not been consolidated for more than a year, Ngcobo explains that the department was avoiding litigation.

“[Which is why we are] giving manufacturers and all users ample time to dispose of the product. The other challenge [is that] product disposal must be done properly, which is why we said they must complete any inventory they have by June 1, 2024.”

Ngcobo warns that this is critically important as South Africa does not have adequate facilities where these products can be disposed of.

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