Europe should end the double standards on toxic pesticides exported to Kenya

Press release

The EU is the largest pesticide export market in the world and second hightest exporter of pesticides to Kenya. Many of the toxic pesticides exported, are banned in the EU.

Double Standard

Nairobi, October 28th, 2022 – The Heinrich Böll Stiftung (hbs) today unveiled the Pesticide Atlas – Kenya Edition, a publication with facts and figures about toxic chemicals used in agriculture.

Sales data shows that 76 percent of the total volume of pesticides used in Kenya contain one or more active ingredients that are categorized as Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs). Pesticides are classified as highly hazardous if they pose serious health risks or irreversible damage to the environment. Their potential to cause cancer, disrupt hormonal and nervous systems, lead to genetic defects or harm unborn children, are among the list of human health concerns being raised by civil society organizations.

The global pesticide market has almost doubled in the last 20 years. By 2023, the total value of all pesticides used is expected to reach nearly 130.7 billion US dollars. The EU is the top exporting region, increasingly selling toxic pesticides to low- and middle-income countries where environmental, health and safety regulations are often the weakest. Over the last five years pesticide imports into Africa have increased significantly and yet the African agrochemical market accounts for only 2 to 4 percent of the global usage. Pesticide sales to the continent are increasingly the focus of agrochemical companies which makes smallholder farmers and the wider public increasingly vulnerable to the risks associated with pesticides use and misuse.  

In order to reduce the high number of pesticide poisonings, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) – a specialized agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to defeat hunger and improve nutrition and food security – have developed a voluntary framework and standards for pesticide management. Among other things, the code of conduct recommends avoiding pesticides that require personal protective equipment too uncomfortable or expensive to use. The guideline also recommends the use of agroecological alternatives and a ban on HHPs. However, these recommendations have not yet been implemented and are non-binding and without legal obligation.

Kenya is a growing market for pesticides. According to the Agrochemical Association of Kenya (AAK), pesticide imports more than doubled between 2015 and 2018.

Speaking during the launch, Joachim Paul, hbs Nairobi office Director said, “Pesticides that are not allowed for use in countries such as Germany where they are produced are still exported to other countries. In Kenya, 44 % of the total volume of pesticides used are banned in Europe.”

The practice of companies being allowed to sell pesticides not allowed for use in their own country because of their potential to cause high levels of acute or chronic hazards to humans and the environment, creates the double standard. In Kenya the use of these pesticides poses a great risk to farmers, local communities and all consumers and should be addressed as an urgent public health concern. Women are at higher risk due to traditional gender roles and the biological effects of pesticides. For example, there is an established link between breast cancer and certain pesticides.

According to a survey conducted by the Pest Control Products Board (PCPB) and the Agrochemicals Association of Kenya (AAK), 1 in 2 farmers do not wear full personal protection equipment because it is expensive. Only 11 percent understand the colour bands on labels which represent varying degrees of danger. Fields, schools, and homes are situated close together and near to waterways, which means that buffer zones cannot be observed, and pesticides can run off farms into nearby water bodies. The negative effects on Kenya’s ecosystem – insect biodiversity, pollinators, soils and water – should be of equal priority. Food and nutrition security is contingent on environmental health.   

Food residues in Kenya is also a problem and a nationwide, systematic long-term monitoring programme needs to be put in place. In 2020, a total of 25 different active ingredients were found in tomato and kale samples in Kenya – 51 percent of the detected active ingredients were already withdrawn from circulation in the EU long ago. Of the total of 25 samples, 60 percent exceeded the EU maximum residue levels.

The Pesticide Launch Kenya Edition is available for download here

This press release was circulated and published in the Kenya Media following the launch of the Pesticide Launch Kenya Edition.