BASSETERRE, St. Kitts –- Significant steps have taken to address food safety with respect to pesticides with a partnership between the governments of the Republic of China (Taiwan) and St. Kitts and Nevis. The two governments have established a Soil Fertility Analysis and Pesticides Residue Detection Lab, the first lab of its kind in the region.
“The two governments have taken significant steps to cooperate to address food safety with respect to pesticide contamination,” Minister of Agriculture, the Honourable Eugene Hamilton said during an addressing to the nation to commemorate the Sept. 23 to 28 launch of Pesticide Awareness Week 2018. He said the project is under the auspices of the Vegetable, Fruit and Upland Crop Quality and Safety Improvement Project.
“As a result, our soils are tested, the food is tested, and farmers, once they pass the pesticide residue test, receive a license that can be shown to their customers, certifying that their produce are safe for consumption by humans,” said Hamilton.
In addition, the minister said:
The theme of Pesticide Awareness Week is “Increase Food Safety, Reduce Dependency on Pesticides-Adapt Integrated Pest Management (IPM)” to highlight the efforts to increasing food safety measures in the Federation.
“The safety and well-being of the consumer is the government’s utmost responsibility and goal,” Minister Hamilton explained. “In our quest to achieve food and nutrition security, one area of concern that is often raised around the world is the use and presence of pesticides along the food value chain,
“The term pesticide covers a wide range of compounds including insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, rodenticides, plant growth regulators and others which are lethal to the targeted pests but may also be harmful to humans.”
Serious implications of misuse
The minister noted that although pesticides have their benefits including the enhanced economic potential and the amelioration of vector-borne diseases, the misuse may result in serious implications to humans and other life forms and their environment.
“There is now overwhelming evidence that some of these chemicals do pose potential risk to humans and other life forms and also unwanted damage to the environment,” he said. “The government is committed to ensuring that adequate support is given to issues relating to pesticide availability and its use by various stakeholders.
“We will continue to educate our communities through various public and private entities in health, agriculture and commerce on the adequate use of pesticides.”
“A 2017 United Nations (UN) report showed that worldwide, an average of 200,000 people die each year from the toxic exposure to pesticides,” Hamilton said. “High-risk groups include householders, sprayers, mixers, and agricultural farm workers.
“There is now, overwhelming evidence that some of these chemicals do pose a potential risk to humans and other life forms and also unwanted damages to the environment.
“For example pesticides are now found as common contaminants in soil, air, water and on non-target organisms in our rural and urban landscapes. Once there, they can harm plants and animals ranging from beneficial soil microorganisms and insects, non-targeted plants, fish, birds, and other wildlife.
“No segment of the population is completely protected against exposure to pesticides and the potentially serious health effects.
FAO report highlights Federation
“The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports for St. Kitts and Nevis shows the average pesticide application per unit of cropland, measured in 2008 was as high as 3.65 kilograms per hectare but since 2014 application rates had decreased considerably to 0.31 kilograms per hectare; with a tendency to increase,” Hamilton explained. “There is a need to convey the message that prevention of adverse health and environmental effects due to pesticides; and promotion of health, proper pesticide use are profitable investments for all members of society as a support mechanism to our sustainable development.”
The Minister of Agriculture said St. Kitts and Nevis is committed to ensuring that the adequate support is given to issues related to pesticide availability and use by the various stakeholders.
“We will continue to educate our communities via the various public and private entities in health, agriculture, commerce, etc. on the adequate use of pesticides,” he said. “Pesticide Awareness Week highlights our efforts as we seek to increase Food Safety, reduce dependency on pesticides and adopt an IPM approach.
“The importation and distribution of pesticides is regulated by the established Pesticide Board which evaluates and issues the necessary licences.
“We recognize that in an effort to properly reduce the existing pest burden, an integrated management approach is needed. IPM is an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management. It is not a single pest control method but, rather, a series of pest management evaluations, decisions and controls.
How to reduce risks
“One effective way to reduce risks posed by pesticides is to use non-chemical control methods to reduce or eliminate pest problems. Around the home, such measures include: removing sources of food and water such as leaky pipes; and destroying pest shelters and breeding sites such as garbage and plant debris.
My advice is:
• When using pesticides, always read the label first and follow the directions to the letter, including all precautions and restrictions.
• Don’t use products for pests that are not indicated on the label
• Don’t use more pesticide than directed by the label.
• Use protective measures when handling pesticides as directed by the label, such as wearing impermeable gloves, long pants, and long-sleeve shirts. Change clothes and wash your hands immediately after applying pesticides.
• Before applying a pesticide, remove children, toys and pets from the area and keep them away until the pesticide has dried or as recommended by the label.
• Remove or cover food during indoor applications.
• Don’t spray outdoors on windy or rainy days. Take precautions to keep the pesticide from drifting or running off into the vegetable garden or neighbour’s yard.
• Use the appropriate equipment to apply pesticides.
• Don’t buy more pesticides than you will need.