The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has warned of imminent environmental and health effects due to the level of misapplication and unsafe methods in the use of pesticides by farmers.

The EPA however acknowledges that one of the rudiments available to boost commercial agricultural production in Africa is to substantially increase the volume of pesticides’ application, but says this must be done with care.

It is estimated that more than 50% of global agricultural production, largely in Africa, is lost before or after harvest due to cumulative effects of disease, pest attacks and weeds, and the only antidote to change this status quo is the use of pesticides — which can also come with detrimental effects, Joseph Edmund, Deputy Director-EPA has said.

According to him, about three-quarters of pesticides-use occurs in developed countries — mostly in North America, Western Europe and Japan with less volume used in developing countries like Ghana; it is nonetheless substantial and growing rapidly with more negative implications.

Mr. Edmund was addressing a training workshop in Sunyani for media personnel in the Brong Ahafo Region on pesticides control and management. The workshop was jointly organised by the EPA and the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Programme (WAPPA).

“WHO estimates that every year three million people suffer from acute severe pesticide poison, and over 20,000 are susceptible to death worldwide. The unfortunate situation is that the vast majority occurs in developing regions, including Africa. It means that though we use less, we are more exposed to the hazards.

“Agrochemical sales in the world as of 2004 was: Asia/Pacific 25.3%, West Europe 24.2%, Latin America 13.8%, North America 27%, and the rest of the world including Africa 9.7%,” he indicated.

He pointed out that absorption through the skin is the most common route of poisoning for agricultural workers, and therefore the exposure can be reduced drastically — by 99% — by wearing chemical resistant gloves and long-sleeved shirts during application period.

The Deputy EPA Director urged the public, especially farmers, to always look out for original agrochemical products because “fake pesticides may pose greater danger to humans and the environment as they are not evaluated as required by law”.

“Counterfeit pesticides are attractive in the sense that they may be relatively cheaper. Due to lower prices, fake ones may have higher patronage — thereby subjecting farming communities, consumers of agro-products and the environment at large to its hazards,” he added.