Kenya’s Prime Minister Urged to Help Ban Carbofuran

Kenya’s Prime Minister Urged to Help Ban Carbofuran

Nairobi, 06 November 2009 – On Friday, 30 October 2009, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it would implement the agency’s May 2009 final rule revoking all tolerances, or residue limits, for the pesticide carbofuran. From 31 December 2009, therefore, any use of carbofuran in USA becomes a crime punishable with fines and jail sentences. Kenyan conservationists now want their government to follow suit and impose a total ban on carbofuran in the country.

Conservationists, led by the Nairobi-based NGO, WildlifeDirect, want the support of their Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, who on Monday, 2 November 2009, adopted a lion under the Kenya Wildlife Service’s (KWS) Wildlife Endowment Fund. It is a rare conservation gesture coming from one so high in Kenya’s political pyramid.

WildlifeDirect and its partners have been calling for a total ban on carbofuran in Kenya for about two years and they now see hope in the Prime Minister’s small but important gesture of adopting a lion – a species imperiled by this lethal poison. “Mr Odinga should now lead parliament in realizing the ban on this number one lion-killer.” says Dr Paula Kahumbu, Executive Director of WildlifeDirect.

Carbofuran, known in Kenya by its brand name- Furadan, which is manufactured by the FMC Corporation of Philadelphia, USA and is solely distributed in Kenya (and the rest of East Africa) by Juanco Limited – is known to have killed at least 76 lions in 5 years. Carbofuran is also responsible for the deaths of more than 300 vultures, and truckloads of other birds and animals according to scientists and the KWS.

Reports of human death due to carbofuran poisoning have emerged. WildlifeDirect spoke on phone with the heartbroken father of a child who died of Furadan poisoning. The report of this death first appeared on Kenya’s The Standard newspaper on Friday, 30 October 2009 saying that on Monday, 26 October 2009, the child had mistakenly ingested Furadan and died.

The child’s father informed WildlifeDirect that the child died on arrival at the Cherangani Nursing Home in Trans Nzoia East District in western Kenya. The father had bought the pesticide four months ago for use in killing insects in the soil when preparing his vegetable nursery. He says that he was not aware how dangerous the product is and was not informed by the retailer about the first aid approach in case of pesticide ingestion. He gave his child milk and crushed eggs – a method of dealing with poisoning widely used in Africa – instead of water as the label says.

This confirms that this poison is critically dangerous for Africans even those with sufficient levels of education like the bereaved man who is a teacher at a local primary school. The lack of the clear and utterly off-putting universal symbol of death – the skull and crossbones – dupes end users of the pesticide into thinking that its poisoning effects are mild.

The damage that carbofuran has caused to wildlife, the environment and humans is not unique to Kenya. Of the EPA’s 3 year determination, Steve Owens, the assistant administrator for EPA’s Office said that “The evidence is clear that carbofuran does not meet today’s rigorous food-safety standards.”

“If the pesticide is not safe for use in the US or Europe, where pesticide users are more informed, why would we think that the pesticide is safe for use in Africa?” asks Dr Richard Leakey, Chairman of WildlifeDirect.

This pesticide was developed for largely literate and highly regulated developed countries. In Africa, where most farmers are uneducated and where the regulatory bodies are under-resourced, users are exposed to greater danger. The product is often repackaged in small, affordable but unmarked packets that have no user instructions. “It is immoral to sell a pesticide as dangerous as carbofuran in Africa” Dr Leakey adds.

It gets worse for Kenya which is a large exporter of coffee to the US. Dr Michael Fry of the American Bird Conservancy says, “The revocation of all food tolerances has international implications, as imports of rice, coffee, bananas and sugarcane were previously allowed to contain residues of carbofuran.” He adds, “After this revocation, countries wishing to export these foods to the US must stop using carbofuran on these four major crops.”

Dr Leakey, who has been central to the call to ban this lethal poison, urges Mr Odinga to act now to stop this carnage. “The Prime Minister did well to adopt that young lion cub, but now is the time for him to lead in a much more significant action to save lions – declare them an endangered species in Kenya and enforce a total ban on carbofurans” he says.

This, according to WildlifeDirect, must be coupled with proper management of lions, compensation for depredation of livestock, incentives and rewards for communities and land owners to protect lions, plus effective enforcement by the wildlife authorities. These actions could bring the lion back from the brink of national extinction and restore the pride to Kenya’s national symbol.

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