On the centre pages of December’s Pesticides News read about the ‘street pesticide’ vendors in South Africa. Poor housing and sanitation in the townships of Cape Town mean that pest outbreaks are commonplace and demand for cheap and effective pest control is high.
This has led to a black market in illegal pesticide sales. Vendors purchase agricultural pesticides illegally and decant them into small and mostly unlabelled bottles or containers which are sold on at taxi ranks, on street corners and at train stations for domestic use. The pesticides involved are highly toxic and local hospital files show that most children admitted for pesticide poisoning have consumed such ‘street pesticides’. The solution to this problem will not come easily. It will not take the form of cracking down on the impoverished street vendors. It will require policy solutions to tackle the poor housing, poor sanitation and poor infrastructure that have led to the problem in the first place.
Read about advances being made by agronomists and wheat farmers in the Picardy region of France (page 20). For over a decade they have been conducting trials to develop strategies for growing large-scale arable crops with reduced reliance on pesticides. Over 70 trials have been carried out comparing conventional practice with Integrated Production (IP) on commercial farms. A small reduction in wheat yield was more than offset by reduced input costs such that IP wheat was slightly more profitable to farmers than conventional wheat. Their results are impressive and should encourage farmers elsewhere to adopt similar strategies.
Read about the impact of pesticides on birds (page 3). In the UK the most notable bird poisonings are deliberate and target birds of prey. Where the perpetrators of these callous acts have been identified they have often been individuals seeking to protect game for commercial reasons. However, the most significant population level effects are on farmland birds which have halved in numbers over the past 40 years. The effects on these species are indirect and are due to reductions in food (insects or seed) or changes in habitat caused by the heavy reliance on pesticides and other changes in agriculture. The UK’s Royal Society for Protection of Birds has been trialling management strategies which seek to support increased biodiversity within a commercial farm setting. Numbers of farmland birds have trebled on their trial farm in Cambridgeshire during the ten years they have been running it.
PAN Germany has carried out research on pesticide export from the port of Hamburg in Germany (page 16). The International Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides recommends that in developing countries hazardous pesticides which require the use of prohibitively expensive or uncomfortable personal protective clothing should not be used. PAN Germany found that 77 highly hazardous pesticides were being exported from Hamburg.