Many farmers ignorant of herbicide dangers as calls for banning glyphosate intensify

Monsanto, a global agro-giant acquired by German company Bayer for about $63 billion in June this year, is soiled in a renew call globally for the ban of the glyphosate, a major ingredient in its Roundupweed-killer.

This started few weeks ago when a landmark US court ruling in San Francisco  awarded $289 million to a man they declared got cancer from Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide.

The victim, Dewayne Johnson, 46, who is currently dying of cancer, was reported to appling Roundup weedkiller 20 to 30 times annually while working as a groundskeeper for a school in San Francisco, USA.

The ruling has heightened the already global skepticisms and concerns over the safety of the product.

According to Reuters, “Monsanto faces 8,000 lawsuits’ over its product glyphosate (Roundup weedkiller) adding that the company could face difficult years ahead.

Radio France International (rfi) has quoted the French Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot saying that the verdict marked “the beginning of a war” noting that banning glyphosate within the next three years is one of its “clear engagements.”

The government of Vietnam is renewing call for Monsanto to pay damages to over one million victims ofMonsanto and Dow Chemical, which produced the deadly herbicide Agent Orange for the U.S. military during the Vietnam War.

Also, Brazil, one of the largest consumers of Monsanto herbicides is also having a running legal battle over the acceptability of glyphosate.

But Scott Partridge, Mosanto Vice President in a press statement at the company’s website after the judgment argued that “Glyphosate is not the answer. Glyphosate does not cause cancer. The verdict was wrong. We will appeal the jury’s opinion and continue to vigorously defend glyphosate, which is an essential tool for farmers and others. We are confident science will prevail upon appeal.

“The jury’s opinion does not change the science. Glyphosate has a more than 40-year history of safe use. Over those four decades, researchers have conducted more than 800 scientific studies and reviews that prove glyphosate does not cause cancer. The National Institutes of Health and the Joint FAO/WHO Meeting on Pesticides Residues (JMPR) both recently reaffirmed glyphosate does not cause cancer. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  and other regulatory authorities in Europe, Canada, Japan, Australia, Korea and elsewhere routinely review all approved pesticide products and have consistently reaffirmed that glyphosate does not cause cancer.”

In Nigeria, millions of farmers use agrochemicals without using protective measures- something experts said will create health complications due to long time exposures.

In Alwaza, Doma LGA of Nasarawa State, Nasle George Ali is still recovery after an agrochemical he was spreading on his farm using 15-litre Knapsack seeped down to his body causing stern injuries to his private part area.

For days the farmer was in a critical situation receiving treatment in the village.

“When that herbicide poured on my body, I started feeling some discomfort after few minutes and I went down to the river to wash my body. But later that night I couldn’t sleep because of persistent pains and my private part areas started peeling. At that moment I knew I was in serious trouble,” he told the reporter.

Many Farmers who use agrochemicals for long hours admit to having difficulties sleeping in the night unless they take milk.

Like Mr Nasle, many of these smallholder farmers across the country do not use protective apparatus when using herbicides.

Ndidi Okonkwo Nwuneli is the co-founder of AACE food Processing and Distribution Ltd, Managing Partner of Sahel Consulting Agriculture &Nutrition and Founder of LEAP Africa.  In a piece titled “implication of Monsanto ruling on Africa farmers” published on Business Day August 16 noted that there was minimal farmers awareness of the agrochemicals application method and the risks involve with unsafe use.

“I have personally seen many of these products sold in bottles, with minimal warnings. I have observed that most stallholder farmers lack the income to purchase basic gloves, masks, protective clothing or sprayers to protect themselves during the application. Many even store these chemicals in their homes or with their harvest, because they lack separate storage space,” she said.

In a telephone interview with Daily Trust, the National Chairman of Agrodealers Association of Nigeria, Alhaji Kabiru Umar Fara stressed that agrochemical industry is not properly regulated in Nigeria.

“Ordinarily no chemicals should be sold in Nigeria without going through departments established to take care of that. They have to even test the Nigerian soil and they have to give you certificate to say this is okay. Unfortunately things happen in this country without anybody taking care of anything.

“All these chemicals, before you are given authorization to sale in Nigeria you must have a brand name, a leaflet describing how to use it, how to protect people using it. Most of these chemicals I’m sure the Federal Ministry of Agriculture is not even aware they are in circulation in market,” Alhaji Fara said.

He stated that the association and the federal ministry of agriculture are working on modalities that will ensure that before one sells any chemicals in Nigeria, one must be licenced.

“If you licenced, there is requirement for licencing-you must have a shop, certificate from the ministry, you must go through training. You will be educated on which one is good and bad; you must also serve as an extension agent to the farmers on behalf of federal government and the manufacturer.

“Right now if you take the statistics of agrodealers association of Nigeria, we are just few. We are not more than 1,200 but there are over 500,000 selling agro inputs in Nigeria. So we have to start from somewhere by looking at the enabling laws that say before you can participate in this market, we need to know you because we need to know what you’re selling, your source and who you are selling to,” the input expert said.

For sometimes now civil societies organizations have been kicking (including instituting legal action over NBMA granting licence) against Monsanto GMO crops and herbicides raising concern over it safety.

They asked the Nigerian government through its agencies such as NAFDAC places and immediate ban on all carcinogenic pesticides and herbicides sold by Bio-tech companies in Nigeria like Roundup by Monsanto

However, the Director General of National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), Dr Rufus E. Ebegba in response to correlations between Monsanto’s case & NBMA’s commercialization case on the agency’s twitter handle said: “GMOs are not herbicides or chemicals, the permit granted by NBMA was for the commercialization of Bt Cotton not the importation or use of glyphosate herbicides. These two cases have no correlation.”

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