Albion Monitor /News
[Editor's note: As we reported last year, U.S. companies still export banned pesticides to Third World countries. The 11,000,000 pounds of exported hazardous pesticides, linked to health problems and environmental contamination, include: Aldicarb, Camphechlor, Chlordane, Heptachlor, Chlordimeform, DBCP, DDT, Aldrin, Endrin, EDB, HCH/BHC, Lindane, Paraquat, Parathion, Methyl Parathion, PCP, and 2,4,5-T. ]

Banned Pesticides Heavily Used in Third World

by Lewis Machipisa

(IPS) ROME -- Somewhere this week in an African port, a ship from a developed country will have unloaded a cargo of pesticides, banned as a health risk outside of the developing world.

There is increased use of products like methyl bromide, a pesticide recently banned in the North because of both health hazards and harmful effects to the ozone layer. It is being sold openly in most developing countries not because government leaders there are unaware of the ban, but because manufacturers in developed countries are simply dumping their stocks.

"Because of the ban, Northern countries have resorted to selling methyl bromide very cheaply and dumping it in developing countries because they still have big stocks," says Swiss scientist Hans Herren, winner of last year's World Food Prize.

Famine was averted when another pest, a tiny wasp which is a natural enemy the bug provided the solution

Because they see no alternatives in many developing countries, pesticides are only too welcome.

"There is a whole series of insecticides which are banned in the North and you find them on the market in developing countries. If a product is banned in the North because it is not good for the environment and health, there is no reason to sell it to the South or dump it," says Herren, who is the director general of the International Center of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) based in Nairobi, Kenya.

For years now, the use of DDT has been prohibited in developed countries. However go to Zimbabwe, Brazil and India and you will find it in large quantities.

"If we have stocks we should destroy them. It is wrong to go and create a problem in the South when we in the North do not think it is good for us," said Herren. "One should look for alternatives before and not dump it, because it will lead its abuse."

The use of pesticides gained popularity in the 1960s when they improved yields and killed pests. The problem, however, is that the overall consumption of pesticides has continued to increase ever since, leaving water sources contaminated. At the same time, pests have developed resistance to the chemicals, and now destroy an even larger proportion of yields.

But farmers need not look for pesticides anymore. A solution is in sight: Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which according to its proponents here can contribute immensely to food security in Africa.

IPM is used widely in Asia, partly because IPM developed fast in Asia as a response to the production problems of the green revolution, Latin America and to a lesser degree in Africa. However the momentum is picking up in Africa.

"African farmers are as excited as they are in Asia about experimenting with natural pests," says an FAO specialist, Peter Kenmore. "There is a tradition of serious local innovation that is too often overlooked and the potential is vast."

While insects have long been the problem, turning natural predators on crop-eating pests and letting them slug it out to protect harvests has been successfully tried in many areas,

When the cassava mealy bug was destroying as much as 80 percent of cassava crop in the late 1970s, the solution was found in another pest, a tiny wasp which is a natural enemy the bug. It worked and famine was averted.

"There are many other areas we can do our a lot of good work to find solutions which nature has given us. Nature has given all the solutions to all the problems and we have to go and find them," said Herren whose battle against the cassava bug won him the World Food Prize.

"They are many alternatives to those insecticides and herbicides existing. We should do more research on alternatives. Alternatives which are not in the line of only biotechnology and gene technology."

"Farmers in the developing countries don't even have the money to buy all this. So what are we going to ruin them by sending them pesticides when actually they could something like bio-controls which doesn't cost them anything. Bio-technology is not the answer for everything. It has good things into it but certainly it will not solve all the problems as people do pretend right now."

"If you use pesticides this year, you would have to use twice as much next year"

In the past, and too often still in the present, the solutions to pests and vectors problems are sought in quick fixes. This however is too costly and is not sustainable and are mostly deleterious to the environment and health.

"We need to develop methods which will prevent pests and disease vectors outbreaks, methods that are ecologically and economically sound, which are adoptable by farmers and rural communities, methods which are being co-developed between the scientist in the lab-coat and the scientist in boots (farmer)," said Herren.

Through the use of products which are foreign to the system, the natural balance between plants, insects and their natural enemies is being destroyed, bringing about new pest outbreaks in which pests and weeds alike become resistant to any form of treatment.

IPM's big breakthrough came in Indonesia in 1986-87 when it was adopted a the national crop protection strategy and 57 pesticides were banned by presidential decree. This followed a brownhopper outbreak that seriously damaged the country's rice crop and set the nation's political alarm bells ringing.

It is estimated that the Indonesian government saved $120 million in the first two years of adopting IPM as a national strategy. If the pesticide path may have looked financially affordable by the developed countries, it certainly is not for the farmers of the developing countries.

In Ghana, the consumption of rice is increasing faster than any other staple, but there is a growing gap between domestic production and demand. FAO estimates that, by the turn of the century, rice imports for the sub-region will burn more than $800 million of precious foreign exchange. IPM then, if properly implemented, offers great potential for increased yields and savings.

"If you use pesticides this year, you would have to use twice as much next year," says Herren.

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Albion Monitor November 23, 1996 (

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