The Pesticides Control Authority (PCA), an agency of the Ministry of Health & Wellness, on Tuesday launched a study to investigate pesticides use in agriculture and the impact on the Jamaican environment.
The $ 20-million study is to be conducted by The University of the West Indies over 24 months.
“It will provide a baseline on the importation and use of pesticides in agriculture; and evaluate the use of highly hazardous pesticides. It will also test samples of crops, soil, water and sediment for pesticide residues; and evaluate the impact on selected ecosystems, officials from the ministry of health have explained.
“The study forms an important part of our efforts to safeguard food security while also preserving public health and the environment,” said Minister of Health & Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton, speaking at the launch event held at the Ministry’s offices in New Kingston.
“We understand that pesticides help our farmers to grow food, raising their productivity while offering needed protection from pests and diseases. However, if not used properly, pesticides can be hazardous to health and the environment, ”the Minister added.
Last year, the Ministry’s National Surveillance Unit was notified of 18 confirmed cases of accidental poisoning from pesticides.
This amounted to 9.8% of all confirmed accidental poisoning that year. The year before, 2020, there were 17 cases of accidental poisoning due to pesticides.
That represented 16.3% of all confirmed accidental poisoning that year.
“These are, of course, the obvious cases. However, we know that long-term exposure to in particular high-toxicity pesticides can have serious impacts on human health.
While some pesticides will irritate the skin or eyes, others may be carcinogenic while still others may affect the hormone or endocrine system in the body, ”the Minister noted.
“We have to recognize that as a society with more than 200,000 farmers who support their families each day, we have an obligation to assist them in the appropriate application and disposal of pesticides.
A few years ago the Ministry of Health & Wellness conducted, in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization, a project to treat with obsolete pesticides – and there will be a phase two to those efforts, ”Dr. Tufton added.
Also important, he said, is to see to the safe disposal of pesticides containers.
“That is another project that the Pesticides Control Authority should and must embark on with urgency, in the public health interest. Of course, we must be guided by the science, ”he noted.