Planning Ministry: efforts being made to reduce pesticide use

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    The Planning Ministry says it is working to reduce the use of pesticides.

    Minister Pennelope Beckles recently launched a Pesticide Container Management Pilot Project led by the non-profit organization People for People Foundation.

    The launch was a collaborative effort of the P4P Foundation, Pesticides and Toxic Chemicals Unit, Chemistry Food and Drugs Division and Southern Chemicals and Agricultural Supplies Limited, in observance of Pesticide Week 2022, in the last week of September 2022.

    According to the Ministry, improper pesticide management practices can result in respiratory tract, eye and skin irritation, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, reproductive harm, seizures and/or death.

    In fact, it says a large number of persons in T&T have been poisoned over the years by the occupational use of pesticides when applying to their crops.

    Coming out of the launch was that a recent survey conducted by Duraisamy Saravanakumar, Professor and Head of UWI St Augustine’s Department of Food Production, in conjunction with the Food and Agriculture Organisation, on Health Impacts of Pesticides used in Vegetable Production in Trinidad.

    This reportedly found that 47% of 208 farmers spread across T&T felt unwell over the past 12 months, within 24 hours of pesticide application.

    Some occupational poisoning is also related to pesticide containers – improperly cleaned containers can still have enough residue inside of them to be considered hazardous waste.

    The danger is that empty pesticide containers may lead to poisoning when reused, while those left in the environment have the potential to contaminate soils and underground water sources, with consequential risks to food safety and ultimately the health of persons.

    Meanwhile, Minister Beckles says the Institute of Marine Affairs and UWI collaborated on a project to ascertain the impacts of chemical based pesticides, fertilizers and fungicides on the aquatic and marine environment from farms located near and around the Caroni Swamp.

    This study found some negative effects, though not posing any major health risks.

    It adds that the IMA is working with farmers to cut chemical use in agriculture by 50% to 70%.

    The IMA and UWI are also promoting the use of more biologically based extracts such as an organic Seaweed Extract as a replacement for chemically based pesticides, fungicides and fertilisers which have been found to have a deleterious impact on the natural environment.

    The scientists reportedly found that seaweed extract promoted better plant growth and yield and enhanced the plants’ resistance to pest and disease when compared to the chemically based compounds.

    The Planning Ministry says another project in which it is involved is the Global Environment Facility ISLANDS Programme (2021 – 2026) entitled ‘Implementing Sustainable Low and Non-Chemical Development in small island developing states (SIDS).

    The objective of the Programme is to prevent the build-up of materials and chemicals containing persistent organic pollutants (POPs), mercury, and other harmful chemicals in the environments and to safely manage the disposal of existing harmful chemicals and materials.

    Additionally, the Ministry says recognizing the harmful effects of the improper usage of pesticides on the productivity and longevity of agricultural soils, it collaborated with the Food and Agriculture Organisation to develop the Biodiversity Conservation and Agro-ecological Land Restoration in Productive Landscapes in Trinidad and Tobago (BIOREACH) Project.

    Component 2 of this seeks to decrease the rate of land degradation and restore and enhance the productive capacity of agricultural landscapes by promoting sustainable practices.

    Other recent initiatives as listed by the Planning Ministry include:

    • The drafting of requirements for the Labelling of Retail Packages of Pesticides in Trinidad and Tobago
    • The implementation of the project Disposal of Obsolete Pesticides including POPs; Promotion of Alternatives; and Strengthening Pesticides Management in the Caribbean (in collaboration with the FAO)
    • The drafting of a National Quarantine and Pre-Shipment Policy, currently undergoing public consultation through efforts under the Montreal Protocol, the international agreement which seeks to phase out the fumigant methyl bromide, an ozone depleting substance, and properly manage its alternatives