Posted by Liezl Human on Ground Up

Several pesticides that have been found to cause cancer, genetic mutations and affect reproductive health will be phased out and banned by 2024, according to the country’s Ministry of Agriculture.

The announcement was made Tuesday at Worcester City Hall to more than 150 women, mostly who live and work on farms, and members of the Women on Farms project. The event focused on farm workers’ demands for responsible and ethical use of pesticides on farms.

Workers also handed over a memorandum at Worcester Hospital to a representative of the Department of Health. The note demanded an urgent meeting with the heads of the departments of health, agriculture, labor and environmental protection. They also want dangerous pesticides banned and old pesticide regulations updated.

Workers marched in August 2019 and again this May against the use of 67 pesticides, including Roundup, Dursban and Paraquat, which have already been banned in the European Union (EU) since 2007.

Many of these pesticides have been banned because they pose risks to farm workers, consumers and the environment, GroundUp has previously reported. Pesticides are regulated by the Fertilizer, Farm Feed, Seed and Drug Act (FFFAR).

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During Tuesday’s event, many workers shared their stories of how they were affected by the use of certain pesticides. Representatives of the health and agriculture departments also spoke before the women.

Chrisma Juluus, who lives on a farm in Des Dorns, said the smell of pesticides on her husband’s work clothes lingers in their home even after they are bagged.

“Diseases take a long time to detect… They need to get rid of pesticides,” Juluus said, adding that their three-year-old child is showing symptoms of respiratory problems.

Betty Louw of Des Dornes said her husband had been spraying pesticides on the farm for more than 40 years. She said he also used to “reek of pesticides” and was often sick. “I didn’t know what to do because he was very sick.” she said.

Others raised questions about the lack of protective clothing when working with pesticides, the need to work in crops immediately after spraying pesticides and the development of respiratory symptoms such as asthma.

Carmen Louw of the Women on the Farm Project said Tuesday’s event was the first time they had heard back from the state since 2019, when they first approached the state about pesticides.

What pesticides will be banned?

The Ministry of Agriculture has said it will phase out some pesticides over the next two years and ban them completely by June 2024.

Maluta Jonathan Mudzunga, director of agricultural inputs control at the Department of Agriculture, admitted that the law governing pesticides is very old. He said “it doesn’t really address or provide sufficient protection for the issues that have been raised today.”

Mudzunga said the department said some pesticides would be phased out and banned completely by June 1, 2024. These include chemicals with active ingredients that cause cancer, affect reproductive health, and cause genetic mutations. He said the department is in talks with the pesticide industry to end production of these chemicals.

Mudzunga accepted the group’s note on behalf of Minister Toko Didiza.

Aneliswa Tsele, the Department of Health’s chief environmental and port health officer, said officials in Worcester had been tasked with investigating cases of pesticide exposure on farms.

Chele urged women exposed to pesticides to immediately report the cases to the nearest health facility so that investigations can be carried out on the farm.

She also promised to reduce pesticides that pollute water sources; that the containers are stored properly; and the rules of etiquette are strictly followed. She accepted a note on behalf of Health Minister Joe Faahla.

This article was first published on Ground Up

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