A revisit of the harmful effects of synthetic agrochemicals on human health and more...

The month of October 2020 has already started and presents a mixed bag of good and bad news...the good being the reduction of new cases of COVID-19 in Africa, while the bad news is the rising cases in the northern hemisphere, including Europe. These changing epidemiological patterns seem to correspond with the advent of the winter season. It doesn’t take a genius to notice the association between changing weather patterns aka sunshine and vitamin D levels with the changing incidence and prevalence of COVID-19 cases. One may ask, what does this have to do with agrochemicals? Synthetic agrochemicals interfere with the immune system and increase vulnerability to COVID-19.

The regular reader of this blog will notice that we skipped the article for the month of September to allow for the downloading and reading of a book we co-authored titled: “Surviving COVID-19: The Neglected Remedy” in which we explain how safe and healthy foods can serve as “medicine” to counteract COVID-19 and other ailments, especially non- communicable diseases(NCDs).Here is the link to the book: https://www.organicconsumers.co.ke/168-free-download-surviving-covid-19-the-neglected-remedy-book.html

So, what do synthetic agrochemicals, COVID-19 infection and indigenous-diverse African foods have in common? This article, read in conjunction with the newly launched book, provides evidence of why synthetic agrochemicals, as used in the current food system, are the “problem” on the one hand and why safe agro ecologically grown and organically sold foods are the “solution” on the other hand.


Unlike in the past where we started with the global picture and finished with the local situation, in this article we start with highlighting the local situation and with locally generated evidence and later present and share evidence of the harmful effects of synthetic agrochemicals from elsewhere; in this case, from Argentina, Germany, India and the USA, among others.

As part of the introductory overview, we start with this educative interview of the author of this blog, Dr. Peter Mokaya, conducted by Chioma of MsingiAfrika Magazine:

This increasing trend of use and misuse of toxic agrochemicals is not restricted to the USA, it has spread to other countries, including Kenya. A recently conducted survey to assess the level and amounts of synthetic agrochemicals banned in Europe and yet used in Kenya(and other African countries) revealed disturbing findings, as outlined in this Study Report Findings conducted by KOAN: file:///D:/User%20Documents/Downloads/KOAN-White-paper_opt%20(1).pdf In summary, based on the list of approved and banned pesticides in Kenya by the Pesticides Control Products Board(PCPB), the Study results confirm use of pesticides banned in Europe but used in Kenya!. Additionally, the results show that the use of these pesticides, on commonly consumed vegetables, exceeds the allowed Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs)! The exceeded levels were found to be especially high in tomatoes and kales; these two vegetables are consumed on a daily basis, in almost all Kenya homes. Little wonder that the disease burden from non-communicable diseases, especially cancer has been on the rise in Kenya, in recent years. It is not lost to some of us that October is a “Breast Cancer Awareness Month” making this article especially relevant as some of these banned agrochemicals are endocrine disruptors and mutagens, directly associated with breast cancer, among other cancers. Going forward, this local evidence is validated by findings from the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (KEPHIS): https://www.devex.com/organizations/kenya-plant-health-inspectorate-services-kephis-28278

There is adequate local evidence, reinforced and validated by the recent survey findings from the Kenya Organic Agriculture Network (KOAN) Study, in collaboration with other partners. These findings have been validated by findings from KEPHIS, which is mandated to protect not only the health of plants but also regulating the levels of toxicity in plant products to protect human health, in partnership with other government agencies. As such, there is more than enough evidence to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that most synthetic agrochemicals, as currently used in agricultural farming practice, are harmful to human health and should be banned or at the very least progressively reduced to minimize the harm on human health and the ecosystem. The question that begs is why are regulators and policymakers not willing to put in place policies to encourage and promote safer and healthier agroecological alternatives that embrace integrated pest management(IPM)  which includes crop rotation, use of biopesticides and use of other agroecological interventions, as outlined in the White Paper? Here: KOAN White paper

Going forward, COVID-19 has provided humanity with a “wake up call” on the need to recognize and appreciate human beings interconnectedness with the rest of the ecosystem. It is increasingly clear that more use of agrochemicals is one of the ways in which humanity is “poisoning” the ecosystem, which includes; the soil, the micro-organisms within the soil resulting in an imbalance in the way nutrients are extracted from the soil into the plant root systems, a process involving complex interactions between soil fungi, bacteria, protozoa and other microorganisms to provide a balanced “diet of nutrients” for different plant, via their root systems, to ensure optimal growth and development resulting in healthy and resilient plants, which in turn provide a “balanced diet” to animals and finally human beings. Unfortunately, human beings consider themselves to be at the top of the food chain. This misconception that the ecosystem is a “linear chain” instead of a “complex web” informs the current agrochemical based food system. The harmful effects are manifesting in the increasing burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which include diabetes and cancers. These have devastating health and socio-economic consequences. Make time and listen to the author of this article, Dr. Mokaya, in a recent interview with KIRK TV highlighting the links between nutrition and NCDs.

Moving away from the local scene, as presented above, and setting our eyes on the global scene, one may pose the question; “Is there evidence of harm to human health, reported from other countries outside of Africa, from the increasing use of synthetic agrochemicals, especially the glyphosate based herbicides(GBHs)? The answer is yes. This will be shared and discussed in next month’s article.