What you need to know:
- “The challenge is that few developing nations have a clearly expressed “philosophy” concerning pesticides. There is a lack of rigorous legislation and regulations to control pesticides”
In developing countries like Uganda, transition from agrarian to industrialised societies has meant that smaller, less well-educated populations must shoulder the responsibility of increased traditional food production for consumption by urban populations as well as that of nontraditional export products.
Fortunately, the use of modern agricultural technologies such as pesticides has moved us a great mile in achieving this. However, many older, more toxic, environmentally persistent and cheap pesticides, long banned in developed countries, are used extensively, creating serious local and global contamination and health problems.
Pesticides are widely used and their demand is increasing due to the current system of crop production, which prioritises high agricultural yields.
Many farmers see pesticide use as the best means to protect crops against pests and the changing weather conditions. Properly applied, pesticides contribute to higher yields and improved product quality by controlling weeds, insects, nematodes, and plant pathogens.
In addition, herbicides reduce the amount of labour, machinery, and fuel used for mechanical weed control. The World Food Programme’s 2016 report showed that crop production yield per hectare was, on average, increasing at a rate below that of global population growth. This implied that food production could not be able to meet global demand in the immediate future, leaving millions of people and numerous countries with reduced food security.
To increase food production, yield per hectare must increase, and scientific bodies such as FAO say food production will only increase with pesticide use.
Because of changes in pest pressures, weather conditions, crop acreages, agricultural practices, and other practices in protecting crop yields and quality, pesticide use is on the rise in developing countries. Technological innovations in pest management, including genetically engineered crops, have also had a major influence on pesticide use trends in some developed countries.
For example, the adoption of insect-resistant (Bt) corn and cotton has reduced the acreage treated with conventional insecticides and quantities applied to those crops. This GMO technology is a very emotional topic not only in these developed countries but also in the developing ones, this therefore lives pesticides as the only tool to produce food sustainably.
The challenge is that few developing nations have a clearly expressed “philosophy” concerning pesticides. There is a lack of rigorous legislation and regulations to control pesticides as well as training programmes for personnel to inspect and monitor use and to initiate training programmes for pesticide consumers.
Scenarios of use, misuse, abuse and environmental contamination can be presented for any class of pesticide, culminating in dependence on these chemicals for increased production of food and improved health.
The pace of the shift to alternatives over the coming years will be insufficient to eliminate the use of pesticides. For the foreseeable future, pesticides will remain widely used in developing countries. They will continue to contribute to part of the solution to providing food security.
However, in the coming years, clearer and more consequential differentiation among different types of pesticides will be needed.
The use of highly hazardous pesticides can be phased out and less dangerous pesticides can be used in specific cases.
Authored by Mr Jamilu Muzinga - Msc Animal Science