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Report highlights abundance of hazardous pests on Kenyan plates

According to a report by Route to Food Initiative, Kenyan tomatoes and kale are the leading agricultural commodities with pesticide residue exceeding safe food limits

Maize, wheat, coffee, potatoes, and tomatoes were found to require the largest volumes of pesticides, with a heavy reliance on Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs).

It further highlighted that 34 per cent of pesticides registered by the Pest Control Products Board (PCPB) in Kenya, are withdrawn from the European market or are heavily restricted due to potential chronic health effects, environmental persistence, and high toxicity towards fish or bees.

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Worryingly, only 1 in 6 farmers wear full protective gear when applying pesticides, with only 15 per cent of farmers in Kenya store pesticides in a safe place away from children.

Many studies in Kenya have shown pesticide residue levels in food that exceed allowable limits. In 2018, 1,139 samples of fresh produce intended for export and local markets, were tested by Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS). Pesticides were detected in 46 per cent of the samples, while 11 per cent had residues exceeding EU maximum residue levels.

Hazardous chemicals in various crops

In maize and wheat production, hazardous herbicides such as 2.4-D, S-metolachlor, glyphosate, atrazine, and paraquat are primarily used. The similarly harmful insecticide chlorpyrifos is also applied in high volumes.

Potatoes and tomatoes also heavily depend on HHPs, with mancozeb being a widely used fungicide. Mancozeb is banned in the EU and has been linked to cancer.

Tomato production also involves the use of a variety of highly hazardous insecticides (e.g., diazinon, thiamethoxam).

Coffee production uses high volumes of highly hazardous insecticides (chlorpyrifos, diazinon, omethoate, and thiophanate), fungicides (chlorothalonil), and herbicides (glyphosate, atrazine).

Active Ingredients of Concern

Based on their potential human health toxicity, considering factors such as carcinogenicity, reproductive toxicity, endocrine disrupting activity, mutagenicity, and neurotoxicity, several active ingredients require urgent regulatory measures.

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The most toxic and most commonly used ingredients are the insecticide chlorpyrifos, the herbicides acetochlor, glyphosate, and 2.4-D, and the fungicides mancozeb and chlorothalonil. Considering their environmental toxicity and widespread usage, immediate regulatory action is required for the insecticides chlorpyrifos and imidacloprid, the fungicide mancozeb, and the herbicides glyphosate, atrazine, and 2.4-D.

Additionally, even if some insecticides have low application volumes, it is crucial to regulate and withdraw these substances due to their demonstrated high levels of human or environmental toxicity.

Notably, bifenthrin, dichlorvos, diazinon, carbaryl, fipronil, thiamethoxam, and
carbendazim have already been banned in Europe, highlighting the urgent need for regulatory measures.

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