The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development will soon be embarking on a programme of random testing of food crops at supermarkets across the island. This is in an effort to protect Barbadian consumers from the dangers associated with high residual pesticide levels on such crops.
Word of this has come from Deputy Chief Agricultural Officer, Michael Hunte, who said that while wide ranging testing of imported crops would be quite expensive, Government’s Analytical Services (GAS) Department had started conducting research on a range of pesticides which are currently being used, and would also be conducting some sampling at ports of entry in the future.
Mr. Hunte made the disclosure yesterday while speaking at an educational seminar for farmers at the Springhall Land Lease Project in St. Lucy on the topics ‘Pesticide Safety’ and ‘Integrated Pest Management’. The initiative was a joint effort between extension officers from the Ministry and the Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (BADMC).
With regard to crop importation, the agricultural spokesman stressed the need for importers to ensure that certain chemicals were not used in host countries. In terms of locally grown produce, he said the major problem occurred in instances where crop thieves struck before the end of the withdrawal period for harvesting, following pesticide use, which often ranged from four to seven days.
“The crop reaches the market with a high residual level of the product still on it and it gets on our plates. In fact, that is perhaps even more serious than farmers not using the pesticides properly,” he said.
On the question of instances of farmers themselves harvesting during the danger period, Mr. Hunte was doubtful.
“I believe that most farmers would be responsible enough to observe the withdrawal period for the chemicals. Many of them have been farming long enough to know. I am not saying that sometimes a guy may not be a little lax but I can’t say that it is a major problem,” he noted.
Meanwhile, Agricultural Officer with the Ministry’s Plant Pathology Department, Michael James, urged the authorities to take the issue seriously by strengthening the legislation that speaks to praedial larceny.
He warned that the entire country could be at serious health risk when crops with high residual pesticide levels were placed on the market.
Mr. James, who spoke on the topic ‘Pesticide Use’, urged farmers to exercise caution in their use of these chemicals, and to ensure that instructions and labels were thoroughly read.
“A lot of farmers take it for granted that they know what the pesticides are and how to use them…but, that leaflet which accompanies the pesticides has a lot of information that you shouldn’t take for granted,” he warned.