Jason Sole of Motherchannel interviews Gregory London the professor of epidemiology from UCT.
This interview is very interesting as this man has inside knowledge and is very informed. The professor tells us that there are fewer labs to test for new problems. He tells us that there is a low capacity for monitoring chemicals in South Africa. We discover that there is no responsibility from the state to register and check the health of chemicals that come into the country.
The Rotterdam convention
- to promote shared responsibility and cooperative efforts among Parties in the international trade of certain hazardous chemicals in order to protect human health and the environment from potential harm;
- to contribute to the environmentally sound use of those hazardous chemicals, by facilitating information exchange about their characteristics, by providing for a national decision-making process on their import and export and by disseminating these decisions to Parties.
The main issue is that there is not a government department that’s responsible for checking chemicals before they enter the country. The agricultural research committee in South Africa has indeed banned many substances but it is lagging. Moreover there are many doctors in Stellenbosch that have noted many health related issues related to the spraying seasons.
When will the line be drawn for what is acceptable for companies to use chemically if they are violating the health rights of the people that buy their products. Professor tells us that allergies will be seasonal and it may be hard to tell the difference. The main issue he adds is the problem of governance. There must be allocated responsibility for the state to do something about these chemicals and at least informing people that may come into contact with them.
The current law says that if you apply the pesticide in a way that’s not recommended then you are breaking the law. There just isn’t the resource to investigate such issue effectively. If you are an official on a limited budget you simply wouldn’t approach such an issue that may cause them to not perform as effectively. Producers will only stop using pesticides when it is truly forced upon them. Market pressure works just as well if not better than any regulation can.
The market is powerful and producers will stop using pesticide because North America and Europe will stop taking products that used pesticides. So it seems the way to really hurt the companies that use things like dieldrin will be to hit them where it hurts which are as always in the wallet.
The question of what illnesses are generally affected by pesticides is put to the professor and he tells us the normal diseases are the neural one like Parkinson’s and other similar diseases. The disease lymphoma will also be affected along with brain and lung cancer. In addition there are pesticides that are allergenic and could even cause people to become allergic.
There is no doubt that if you change the pesticides of soil that it will change the microclimate of the soil. Farmers have said that they hate the pesticides and it’s only because they can kill natural microbes in the soil that they can now use the manganese based spray.
Professor has said that he chooses to buy organic because he is aware of the chemicals and their effects. Finally he says the state has a right to respect and also to respect the land that it looks after.
By Alex Mitchison