By Mary Hearty

If Kenya aligns with European Union (EU)’s pesticides rule by withdrawing about 262 pesticide molecules from the market as proposed by the lawmakers, it will lose more than 50% of agricultural productions. As a result, the country will become food insecure and a net importer of food.

Okisegere Ojepat, Chief Executive Officer of the Fresh Produce Consortium of Kenya (FPC Kenya) made these remarks during an Africa Science Media Centre (AfriSMC) briefing.

Ojepat said pesticides are used for the purpose of crop protection- to kill targeted pests, adding that pests will never be easily eradicated in Africa’s farming system particularly in Kenya because of being geographically located in the tropics.

Besides, he mentioned that pesticides are not used holistically alone, but are part of the integrated pest management (IPM) – a combination of approaches used to deal with pests.

Hazard assessment which is used by the EU is difficult to quantify because it is just an indication. Also, it is not science based, Ojepat said, calling on the EU to reconsider the approach and use a science-based risk assessment that informs every decision.

He noted that risk assessment is the internationally used practice which even the World Trade Organization (WTO) framework which brings different global trade partners together employs.

Further, there is no scientific proof within Kenya showing that pesticides are the causative effect of cancer, he argued.

Urging for collaboration between the Pest Control Products Board (PCPB) and the EU, he said Kenya has internal processes of admission and withdrawal of a pesticide, which the EU and the local legislators can use in case of any issue with a particular pesticide.

“What we do not want is for Kenya to be isolated and denied the opportunity to use the agreed molecules elsewhere. And if there is any restriction on certain products, we are saying those particular pesticides could be used but under guidance like quarantine use,” Ojepat said.

Additionally, he told the EU as well as other trading partners that Kenya has put everything in place through the risk assessment tool including traceability.

“We can assure our trading partners not only the EU but also domestically and in other parts of the world of safe products being delivered to their market,” Ojepat said.

“We want to have safe produce across the world without being demonized as a country and the subject of pesticide must not be used to kill the agricultural systems.”

He urged the government to capacity build public institutions that have been given the mandate through the county government extension services, and also service providers within the industry to support and empower the growers and the users of the products of agricultural system with knowledge.

Specifically, the government should give PCPB more resources so that they can carry out their mandate efficiently including enforcements and dealing with porous borders and counterfeit pesticides.

“We cannot produce anything sustainably without using a measure of plant protection,” he said, noting that currently there are several pest outbreaks Kenya is dealing with including fruit flies and weevils in mangoes.