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EU-banned pesticides are harming farmworkers in SA - The Mail & Guardian

The department does not even have a list of registered pesticides, a damning report finds

2021-05-10 11:29:00 PM

The active ingredients in hazardous pesticides, developed and brought to market by German agrochemical firms Bayer and BASF , are damaging the health of farmworkers and farmers in South Africa.

The department does not even have a list of registered pesticides, a damning report finds

M&Git is “appalling” that the department has completely abdicated any responsibility for its stewardship role linked to pesticide regulation.“It’s completely unacceptable that they have outsourced the function of providing information to the public to a private organisation, and not just any private organisation, but to the industry association who stand completely conflicted in this situation – where they control access to information which may be prejudicial to their business, so they stop people realising their right to information,” London said.

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(John McCann/M&G)Lax approvalsThe report found that agrochemical companies profit from the “relatively lax” approval process in South Africa. “Many of the approved pesticide products have not been re-examined for years, and if subjected to today’s stricter risk assessment standards would likely be banned,” said the report.

This has “fatal consequences” for the region, since numerous neighbouring countries take their cues from approval decisions made in South Africa.Health impactsOn wine farms in the Western Cape, Bayer’s insecticide Tempo SC is used on a large scale. It contains the highly hazardous active ingredient beta-cyfluthrin, which is lethal even in small doses, said the report. headtopics.com

“Women told us how they are compelled by the farmer to immediately enter the vineyard after he has sprayed,” said Colette Simon, the director of Women in Farms. “They are using their bare hands to handle grapes and vineyards that are still wet with the pesticides. 

“Very often these farmers, like Bayer and BASF, will say ‘these chemicals are not hazardous’ but these women have reported they always have rashes and skin problems. There are a lot of women who have asthma, which develops in adulthood and they are attributing it to pesticide exposure,” she said.

Bayer South Africa did not respond to questions about their insecticides in South Africa.  Glufosinate is a component of BASF’s pesticide, BASTA SL 200.60. According to the report the product is used on citrus farms in the Gamtoos Valley and Sundays River Valley and the workers on the farms complain of headaches, sore throats, and other ailments related to the application of pesticides.

Linda Brown, the head of communications and advocacy for BASF South Africa, said it removes products from the market that it does not consider safe. “For this reason, we do not sell crop protection products that belong to World Health Organisation (WHO) classes 1A and 1B,” she said. headtopics.com

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Class 1A covers extremely hazardous and 1B highly hazardous pesticides. “For this reason, we do not sell crop protection products that belong to World Health Organisation Classes 1A and 1B (high acute toxicity). “Accordingly, we proactively removed products based on such active substances from our portfolio. Consequently, BASF no longer produces nor markets such active substances or products containing them.”

In 2014, Brown said the EU changed from a risk to a hazard-based approach when approving active ingredients.“In contrast to the EU, most other authorities, including most Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries like Australia, Canada, Japan or the USA, apply a risk-based approach to assess the safety of an active ingredient. This confirms that when taking the exposure level into account, active ingredients can be used safely.”

There are vast differences in crops, soil, climate, pests and farming practices around the world, said Brown, and the company tailors its products for specific regional markets. “All BASF products are extensively tested, evaluated and approved by public authorities following the official approval procedures set forth in the respective countries before they are sold. 

“We are convinced of the safety of our products when they are used correctly following the label instructions and stewardship guidelines. Our employees live and work in the countries where we sell our products, and they are out in the fields with the local farmers.” headtopics.com

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