Fixation with pesticides

Posted on | maart 20, 2011 | No Comments

Away from the dangers the cruel factor of this scenario is that pesticides are a multi-billion profit driven industry, and the general public is not privy to this facet. In a thought provoking expose, in the year 2000 the “New Internationalist” noted:

“Agribusiness is a mindset, a way of thinking which dominates our current model of industrial agriculture and is inextricably linked to increased use of agro-chemicals. It is an approach to food production which sees the soil only as a source of profit and the earth as a resource to plunder. It dismisses pesticides poisonings as accidents and refuses to acknowledge the links between health and the environment and the increased use of pesticides. It sees agriculture only as business and farmers as business people rather than guardians of the land. The corporations which profit from the pesticide industry have a vested interest in keeping it alive – or in replacing it with one in which genetically modified crops reign supreme. That’s because pesticides make money.”

The fixation with synthetic pesticides is a debatable axis for an agricultural economy like Kenya, whose major foreign exchange earners are Tea, coffee and horticulture. The pesticide industry is indeed lucrative business. According to Kenya’s trade ministry Kenya imports some $50 million worth of synthetic pesticides annually. Of these it exports approximately 63 metric tons of pesticides valued at US$ 700,000 to the neighbouring countries of Seychelles, Burundi, Uganda and Tanzania.

At the moment Kenya with its 50,000 tonnes of flowers is the largest flower exporter to the European Union, controlling a tidy 25% stake. For this Kenya earns $300 million annually. The Trade ministry records further illustrate that Kenya’s horticultural industry is the second largest foreign exchange earner after tea and employs 500,000 and over 2 million people respectively. The Tea, coffee and horticulture industries are the major consumers of pesticides.

Ironically, Kenya is the leading producer of a natural pesticide, pyrethrin, a broad-spectrum insecticide processed from pyrethrum’s dried flowers. Pyrethrum has been grown in Kenya for export purposes for the last 70 years and 8,000 tonnes of dried flowers are produced annually. Here is the paradox:

95% percent of all the crude pyrethrin is exported to the west with USA taking 60% and Europe raking in the 35%. The remaining 5% is shared by Egypt and South Africa each of whom takes 2%. Only 1% remains in Kenya. It behoves all understanding why the Kenyan authorities fully aware that Pyrethrin-based insecticides can easily replace most of the synthetic insecticides allow for the exports of nearly all of its eco-friendly natural insecticide and imports highly toxic synthetic ones.

Here is the answer: Fully aware of the health risks posed synthetics, Kenya authorities overlook this environmental health aspect and fix their eyes on the profits Kenyan pyrethrins earn. It is this scenario that aptly captures Kenya’s and East Africa’s dangling with dangerous and highly toxic pesticides as Furadan

AUTHOR: Wanjohi Kabukuru
E-MAIL: wanjohi [at]


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