21 September 2022
Several pesticides found to cause cancer, genetic mutations and affect reproductive health, will be phased out and banned by 2024, according to the national Department of Agriculture.
This was announced on Tuesday at the Worcester Town Hall to over 150 mostly women who live and worker on farms and Women on Farms Project members. The event was centred on the farm workers’ demand for responsible and ethical pesticide practices on farms.
The workers also handed over a memorandum at Worcester Hospital to a representative from the Department of Health. The memo demanded an urgent meeting with the department heads of Health, Agriculture, Labour, and Environment. They also want hazardous pesticides to be banned, and for old pesticides regulations to be updated.
The workers marched in August 2019 and again in May this year against the use of 67 pesticides which include Roundup, Dursban and Paraquat, which had already been banned in the European Union (EU) since 2007.
Many of these pesticides have been banned because they pose a danger to farm workers, consumers, and the environment, GroundUp previously reported. Pesticides are regulated by the Fertilizers, Farm Feeds, Seeds and Remedies Act (FFFAR).
During the event on Tuesday, many workers shared their stories of how the use of certain pesticides has affected them. Representatives of the departments of health and agriculture also addressed the women.
Chrisma Juluus, who lives on a farm in De Doorns, said the smell of pesticides on her husband’s work clothes lingers in their house even after putting it in a bag.
“It takes a long time for ailments to show up … They need to get rid of the pesticides,” said Juluus, adding that their three-year-old has shown symptoms of respiratory problems.
Bettie Louw from De Doorns said her husband sprayed pesticides on a farm for over 40 years. She said he too used to “stink of pesticides” and would often get sick. “I wouldn’t know what to do because he was very sick,” she said.
Others raised issues about not being provided with protective clothing when working with pesticides, having to work in crops right after pesticides were sprayed, and developing respiratory symptoms such as asthma.
Women on Farm Project’s Carmen Louw said Tuesday’s event was the first time they had feedback from the state since 2019 when they first approached the state about the pesticides.
Maluta Jonathan Mudzunga, Director at Agricultural Inputs Control at the Department of Agriculture, acknowledged that the act regulating pesticides is very old. He said that “It doesn’t really address or provide enough protection for the issues that have been raised today”.
Mudzunga said that the department has given notice that certain pesticides will be phased out and completely banned by 1 June 2024. These include chemicals with active ingredients that cause cancer, affect reproductive health, and cause genetic mutations. He said that the department is in talks with the pesticides industry to stop making these chemicals.
Mudzunga accepted the group’s memo on behalf of the Minister Thoko Didiza.
Aneliswa Cele, Chief Director of Environmental Health and Port Health Services at the Department of Health, said officials in Worcester have been tasked to investigate cases of pesticide exposure on farms.
Cele encouraged the women, who have been exposed to pesticides, to report cases to their nearest health facility immediately so that investigations can be done on the farm.
She also promised to mitigate pesticides contaminating water sources; that containers are stored properly; and label regulations are followed accurately. She accepted the memo on behalf of Minister of Health Joe Phaahla.