Several pesticides that cause cancer, genetic mutations and affect reproductive health will be phased out and banned by 2024, according to the national agriculture ministry.
This was announced at Worcester Town Hall on Tuesday to more than 150 women, mostly women who live and work on farms and members of the Women on Farms project. The event centered on farmworker demand for responsible and ethical pesticide practices on farms.
Workers also delivered a memorandum at Worcester Hospital to a Department of Health representative. The memo demanded an urgent meeting with the heads of health, agriculture, labor and environment departments. They also want dangerous pesticides banned and old pesticide regulations updated.
The workers marched August 2019 and again in May this year against the use of 67 pesticides including Roundup, Dursban and Paraquat, already banned in the European Union (EU) since 2007.
Many of these pesticides have been banned because they pose a hazard to farm workers, consumers and the environment, GroundUp previously reported. Pesticides are regulated by the Fertilizers, Farm Feeds, Seeds and Remedies Act (FFFAR).
At Tuesday’s event, many workers shared how the use of certain pesticides has affected them. Representatives from the health and agriculture departments 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 home even after bagging them.
“It takes a long time for the ailments to show… They have to get rid of the pesticides,” Juluus said, adding that their three-year-old was showing symptoms of respiratory problems.
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Bettie Louw from De Doorns said her husband had been spraying pesticides on a farm for over 40 years. She said he, too, used to “stink of pesticides” and often fell ill. “I didn’t know what to do because he was very sick,” she said.
Others spoke of not being given protective clothing when working with pesticides, having to work in crops right after pesticide spraying, and developing respiratory symptoms such as asthma.
Carmen Louw of Women on Farm Project said Tuesday’s event was the first time they had received feedback from the state since 2019, when they first approached the state about pesticides. .
Maluta Jonathan Mudzunga, director of agricultural input control at the Ministry of Agriculture, acknowledged that the law regulating pesticides is very old. He said “it doesn’t really address or sufficiently protect the issues that were raised today.”
Mudzunga said the department gave to remark that certain pesticides will be phased out and completely banned by June 1, 2024. These include chemicals containing active ingredients that cause cancer, affect reproductive health, and cause genetic mutations. He said the department is in talks with the pesticide industry to stop making these chemicals.
Mudzunga accepted the note from the group on behalf of Minister Thoko Didiza.
Aneliswa Cele, chief director of environmental and port health services at the Department of Health, said Worcester officials had been tasked with investigating cases of pesticide exposure on farms.
Cele encouraged women, who have been exposed to pesticides, to immediately report cases to their nearest health center so that investigations can be carried out at the farm.
She also promised to mitigate pesticides contaminating water sources; that the containers are stored correctly; and labeling regulations are followed precisely. She accepted the memo on behalf of Health Minister Joe Phaahla. DM
First published by GroundUp.