Kampala, Uganda | URN | Ugandans are consuming fruits and vegetables heavily contaminated with pesticides, says a senior agriculture officer in charge of food security at the Agriculture Ministry.
Heavy pesticide use on fruits and vegetables is leaving behind heavy residues, thereby poisoning consumers slowly, warns Sunday Bob George, also the organic agriculture focal person. The toxic vegetables end up on dinner tables, setting off alarm bells about serious health risks
So whenever you go to the market to buy tomatoes, green pepper, cauliflower and others, be careful to ensure that they are not laced with harmful chemical pesticides, says Sunday Bob George.
He says some of the vegetables picked from the stalls in the market have been found to exceed the maximum permissible limits. Pesticides are used in agriculture for their capacity to reduce pest and protect foods. While their use is not prohibited, Sunday Bob says that the Ministry is concerned that more and more farmers are misusing them.
Pesticides may remain on a crop for some time after application. This is often desired to protect it from pests in the field and during transport or storage.
Farmers are applying pesticides too close to crop harvest or sale leading to excessive residue levels. Sunday told URN that the farmers and market vendors found to be misusing pesticide and herbicides risk being jailed.
In February, a report published in the Journal of rural studies said pesticide use among smallholders is far more widespread than commonly assumed.
The report themed “Gambling in the garden: Pesticide use and risk exposure in Ugandan smallholder farming” said farmers’ pesticide practices entail substantial risk to human and environmental health.
Smallholders according to the report largely rely on unauthorized supply channels to access pesticides and that their access to technical support and protective measures is largely inadequate.
Surprisingly, the report said that farmers are well-aware of pesticide risks but typically lack options for pest control. The findings according to the researchers demonstrate that a large majority of farmers have resorted to pesticides as their primary strategy for pest control.
“Our findings suggest that there are deep structural forces that shape farmers’ adoption of pesticides and act as barriers to counteract unsafe practices,” reads part of the report.
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It said Uganda’s rapid market liberalization in combination with poor monitoring and enforcement of pesticide regulations have created a situation of widespread promotion of agrochemicals and pervasive availability of cheap, poor-quality products including counterfeits.
While Sunday Bob George agrees that there are few inspectors to enforce adherence, he says some farmers have stubbornly continued to apply the chemicals even when they have not observed any pests on their gardens.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the toxicity of a pesticide depends on its function and other factors. For example, insecticides tend to be more toxic to humans than herbicides.
The same chemical can have different effects at different doses (how much of the chemical a person is exposed to). It can also depend on the route by which the exposure occurs (such as swallowing, inhaling, or direct contact with the skin).