Barbadian consumers and farmers are being encouraged to read product labels, particularly when dealing with potentially dangerous chemicals such as pesticides.
This advice has come from Chairman of the Technical Sub-Committee of the Pesticides Control Board and Officer-in-charge of the Plant Protection Unit, Ministry of Agriculture, Michael James. He pointed out that before using any pest control agent persons should ensure the correct pesticide and amount was being used and read the labels of the particular product.??
"There are different types of pesticides, for example, molluscicides deal with snails, fungicides deal with fungi, and, of course, insecticides are for insects. The first thing you should know is what you are using them against… After you have bought the correct pesticides, you should always read your label. It tells you exactly what is in the product, how to store it, how to use it, what protective gear you should wear, how long you should wait before going back in the field and the time limit you should observe before picking the particular produce.
"One of the major things you should look for is the rate you should use because there are different rates for different crops. The rate you might use for carrots might be completely different to the one for tomatoes, depending on the type of pest, whether insect or disease," Mr. James explained.
The Plant Pathologist was speaking as Barbados observes Pesticides Awareness Week which began on Monday and will run until Friday, September 28. The theme is Protecting Health and the Environment through Pesticides Container Management. Pesticides Day is Thursday, September 27.
Mr. James stressed that dealing with pesticides was a serious matter and, as such, importers should ensure they provided all the requisite information to local health and agricultural officials.
Under the Pesticide Control Act, that information includes the name of the active ingredient, that is, the chemical which controls the pest and other ingredients; the manufacturer; its origin; how it will be stored; and a specimen of the label.
In addition, a Material Safety and Data Sheet (MSDS) is required, which tells what may happen, for example,?? in case of a fire or poisoning and advises officials of the proper action in such instances, including an antidote.
"All of this is important information…We [also] need to know the leachability [of the chemical], that is, when you spray it onto the ground, will it bind to the soil or will it move through the soil and how quickly. This has implications for our wells, the underground system, and the crops downwind from what you are spraying because if it moves really quickly in the soil or does not bind, it could damage other crops in the vicinity or crops that you may plant later since its residual levels may be high," Mr. James explained.
He added that apart from the scientists at the Ministry of Agriculture, information was also passed onto and comments sought from other ministries and departments such as the Ministry of Health and the Environmental Protection Department, depending on the topic area, to ensure any chemical was safe for the population.
"We send the information to different subject matter specialists until it comes back to the Pesticide Control Board and they will make their decision based on the comments or advice given by those specialists," Mr. James said.
The Pesticide Control Board is the body responsible for ensuring the health and safety of the environment, and the protection of agricultural workers and consumers from dangerous chemicals.
Mr. James also touched on the importance of storing such chemicals. "You can’t go and store any and everything together. Certain liquids should not be mixed. You should not store liquids on top of solids because if they leak, they can run down and cause problems. In terms of fertilisers, some of them should not be stored with your fungicides or insecticides," he stated.
The agricultural official stressed that there must be careful consideration and investigation before any decision was made by the Pesticide Control Board regarding the use of any chemical or control agent.
"There is a science behind it…In order for us to make a proper decision we must sometimes take our time and research information. For example, why is this produced but not sold in other areas? What other countries use this? It also has implications if you want to market your product. Let’s say you import Chemical ???A’ but a particular country might also say if you use this chemical, we don’t want your produce in my country. So, we go through all of that before we come to any final decision," Mr. James explained.
Further information on pesticides and their proper use may be obtained by contacting the Pesticides Control Unit of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, Graeme Hall, Christ Church, at 434-5000 or 434-5022, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.