Agri SA vows to act against pesticide mismanagement

Farmers’ union Agri SA has pledged to act publicly against any farmers who are misusing pesticides or otherwise endangering neighbours through toxic pollution. The warning follows reports that widespread pesticide poisoning around Groblersdal, Mpumalanga may be responsible for teenage boys growing breasts, as well as increased incidents of cancer, miscarriages, ear infections and partial facial paralysis.
Issue Date: 13 April 2007

Farmers’ union Agri SA has pledged to act publicly against any farmers who are misusing pesticides or otherwise endangering neighbours through toxic pollution. The warning follows reports that widespread pesticide poisoning around Groblersdal, Mpumalanga may be responsible for teenage boys growing breasts, as well as increased incidents of cancer, miscarriages, ear infections and partial facial paralysis.

The suspected poisoning was exposed by respected local physician Dr Johan Minnaar and is being investigated by a high level national agriculture department task team. “Government officials visited the area last week, and reviewed medical case studies of various physical abnormalities, including cases where one girl of just five years has grown breasts,” said Dr Minnaar. “[They] also looked at cases where teenage boys developed temporary breasts during [pesticide] spraying season.” D r Minnaar said unregulated use of toxic and cancer-causing pesticides is causing a massive increase in developmental abnormalities and related ailments.

The poisoning is also causing milder symptoms, he said, including depression, asthma, migraines and dizziness. Agri SA’s Limpopo chairperson Philie van Zyl said anyone found to be endangering the public should immediately be charged and prosecuted. “As a farmers’ union, we will not protect or defend anyone who abuses pesticides or who fails to take the proper precautions when spraying their fields,” said Van Zyl. He warned, however, it was extremely dangerous to condemn all local farmers as poisoners.

The government task team is headed by the agricultural department’s national chief inspector Gift Moncho. On 17 April, the government will convene a stakeholder meeting in Groblersdal. “We’ve been told that the meeting will look at the use of pesticides, what kind of pesticides are being used, and whether there are sufficient controls and safety measures in place,” said Dr Minnaar. “I hope the meeting will also consider whether we actually need so much spraying, and maybe stop aerial spraying altogether.” Van Zyl said curbing pesticide spraying was out of the question and tighter controls should rather be considered. “We cannot produce the volumes that we do without pesticides. They will always be a part of our lives and we should look how to better improve the regulations on spraying,” he said. – African Eye News Service