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Basseterre, St. Kitts, September 26, 2018 (SKNIS): While speaking on Pesticide Awareness Week 2018, which runs from September 23 – 28, an official from the Ministry of Agriculture, a representative from the Department of Environment, and a visiting Regional Agronomist at Caribbean Chemicals, educated the public on measures that can be taken to ensure food safety and mitigate risks to human health, the environment and other life forms by reducing dependency on pesticide use.

Agronomist Kennedy Paul said that farmers, suppliers and users of pesticides, should read warning labels carefully to educate themselves on the harmful or adverse effects that pesticides may have and also the necessary safety precautions that should be taken when handling pesticides. He also explained that his company, in particular, chooses “fit” distributors for its products who will adhere to the warnings and precautions that come with offering pesticides for sale such as requiring the presentation of a farmers badge or permit before the purchase of certain types of pesticides.

“I applaud the department for its efforts in this respect and I encourage the safe use of pesticides and reinforce protective equipment. There is a lot of effort that is put into the responsible use of pesticides,” said Mr. Paul, while stating that another precaution that can be taken to safeguard against the negative effects of pesticides is banning their use in certain public spaces.

Director in the Department of Agriculture, Mr. Melvin James, said that there have been research and experiments about the hazardous effects of pesticides, which have been inconclusive, however, it is still important to find alternatives that pose little to no harm to humans or the environment.

“Yes, things are inconclusive but I believe that there is enough for us to be concerned about. For me, they are considered a necessary evil. We’ve heard how life can be transformed by them but there are downsides,” he stated.

He said that there are several options other than pesticides including genetically modified organisms (GMOs) which can create less dependence on pesticides, organic farming, biological control and various cultural methods.

“We need to reduce our reliance on these chemicals,” he said, while explaining that a lot of work is being put into transitioning away from the use of pesticides.

He said that local and imported foods go through a series of testing for pesticide residue to ensure that they are safe for consumption.

“We have a lab that have tested local foods for pesticide residue and we have tested imported foods for pesticide residue and those foods that were tested, the imported had more residue than the local,” he added.

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