Tapuwa Mashangwa
AGRICULTURAL scientific research over the years has provided chemical (biochemical) solutions to various plant pests, grasses, weeds, fungi, bacteria and animal fungi, bacteria and viruses. The products agro-companies have produced have increased yields of agricultural produce (animal and plant) tremendously together with the increased exploitation of hybrid seeds and highly productive animal breeds. One can only imagine what the agricultural industry will look like a decade or two from now.

In the race for profitability and higher stock value each agro-chemical company invests heavily in producing the next competitive product to take the agricultural world by storm. The authenticity and reviews of most of these products usually depends on research information certified by the agro-chemical scientists involved in the manufacture of the agricultural chemical product, which sincerely is a biased process.

In the recent case of Dewayne Johnson vs Monsato as reported by The Economist, Monsanto, a chemicals giant recently purchased for $63bn by Bayer, a German rival, offers a captivating illustration of this issue.

In the first case of its type, Mr Johnson’s lawyers argued that Roundup, a weed killer made by Monsanto, had caused him cancer. To the industry’s shock, on August 10th the court decided in Mr Johnson’s favour, ordering Bayer to pay him $289m in damages. Mr Johnson, 46, is a father of three who worked as a groundskeeper and pest manager for the school district in Benicia, a suburb just north of San Francisco. That position began in 2012, and he testified that it involved him spraying herbicide to control weeds on school grounds, sometimes for several hours a day.

Despite the gravity of this status quo, most of the global community does not comprehend the severity of the court case. Although the World Health Organisation declared in 2015 that glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic”, America’s Environmental Protection Agency and the European Union consider it safe to use. Most reputable scientific studies find that glyphosate poses no risk to humans. Yet there is a correlation between farming work and incidence of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

A study conducted and published through PMC, “The United States of America National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health titled, An Update of Cancer Incidence in the Agricultural Health Study”, concluded that, “while lower rates of smoking and increased physical activity probably contribute to the lower overall cancer incidence, agricultural exposures including pesticides, viruses, bacteria, sunlight, and other chemicals may increase risks for specific cancer sites.”

What we consume is what we become
The race for profitability rarely analyses the effects of agro-chemicals on human health, and even those that speak out about it are shut down or mummed and the average consumer does not care much about the effects.

The United Nations calculates the global population is 7,6 billion, and quite surprisingly the world’s per capita debt is estimated to be more than $30 000.

This translates to most people not caring much about what they eat or what they are exposed to as long as food is affordable and tastes great! And if one is employed in the agricultural sectors few farm owners provide protective clothing and information on the proper health conscious ways of using agro-chemicals.

Another sad reality is that healthy food is expensive. Organic produce fetches a higher price globally and only in the past are some farmers taking up the opportunities available in organic farming.

Developing country governmental institutions and organisations most of the time fail to protect the consumers from the unhealthy products and simultaneously the average sub-Saharan consumer is poor if we look at their income per capita.

Our ignorance sometimes can be mind-boggling. The global rise in various health issues can be attributed to living standards, environmental exposure and diet. We cannot fully comprehend the effects of what we expose our bodies to our health, how it affects our genetic code and offspring.

The science of health is crucial to delve into, ponder and make the appropriate changes. The use of chemicals through the stages of any agricultural product from the fertilisation of a seed to pest, virus etc. control and in animals vaccinating and dosing whatever animal one intends to breed has an effect. Not only should the raw product production process be evaluated even the posterior packaging or canning materials and preservatives (if utilised) be analysed.

What are we creating and doing to ourselves though? If we fail to properly regulate and invest more into research of these products what is the point then of educating university attendants to become our future scientists yet the future of the population is a sick one?

Moreover, we fail to fully understand that the effect of agro-chemicals can only be observed over several years by which the health state of many individuals may be significantly damaged. Profitability concerns override health concerns it seems.

*The writer is Eng. Tapuwa Justice Mashangwa, CEO – Emerald Agribusiness Consultancy based in Bulawayo. He can be contacted on +263 771 641 714 and email: [email protected]

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