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Lobby says pesticide used in locust-control poses danger to human nervous system

NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 17 – An environmental lobby group has raised concern over pesticides used in Kenya’s locust-control campaign with initial assessments on samples soil, dead locusts, and vegetation revealing the presence of a harmful chemical that could damage the human nervous system.

An environment sampling done between March and April by Greenpeace Africa in Nakuru’s Rongai area identified Deltamethrin as the chemical that was used for locust control.
In a letter addressed to Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya, the lobby group said Deltamethrin acts like a neurotoxin, and exposure can result in acute effects with symptoms like dizziness, numb fingertips, skin irritation, headache, fatigue, involuntary twitching, tremors, burning throat, eyes, and nose.

“Deltamethrin is highly toxic to humans and other mammals and is a neurotoxin, the major concern relates to its potential to damage the nervous system of human beings as well as it being highly poisonous to bees and fish,”  Claire Nasike, Greenpeace food campaigner said.

The Ministry, in a food security monitoring report released on September 1, said  Kenya had been free from desert locust invasion since the first week of May.

The Munya-led ministry said locust mitigation was achieved through the deployment of sufficient equipment and an adequate supply of pesticides for locusts spraying.

“The Country is free from Desert Locust since the first week of May 2021,” the report said while assuring farmers of continuous support in mitigating the impact of the locust invasion and Diseases.

As part of its demand,  the environmental firm wants the ministry to conduct a comprehensive environmental assessment to establish the impacts of the recent locust control strategies on soil and water quality, biodiversity, and human health.

“Make the findings of the environmental assessments public, we believe that these demands are urgent, and are in the interests of protecting the health and food safety of Kenyans. We call on you to act in the best interests of Kenyans,” the letter read in part.

The firm also wants the government to phase out Deltamethrin in favor of biological alternatives in locust control, based on its toxicity in the wider environment and particularly to non-target organisms.

“During the phase-out period, should the use of Deltamethrin be considered unavoidable, measures such as the covering of beehives and critical water points should be taken to mitigate the effects on bees and fish, shift to locally available biopesticides such as Neem oil (Mwarubaini),” it added.

“Register and enforce the use of fungal-based biocontrol products such as “Green Muscle” and “Novacrid” that contain the biological agent Metarhizium anisopliae and Metarhizium acridum respectively,” its proposals read.

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In addition, Greenpeace said Deltamethrin specifically presents a high risk to bees as it affects its developmental rate, its foraging patterns and interferes with the feeding behavior.

“Perturbations of the foraging pattern of honeybees, for example through effects on navigation and behavior. Interference with feeding behavior by repellent, antifeedant, or reduced olfactory capacity effects, impacts of neurotoxic pesticides on the learning processes (i.e. flower and nest recognition, spatial orientation) of insects, which are very relevant and have been largely identified and studied in the honeybees,” the report added.



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