- Minister of Health, John Junor has said that the management of pesticides requires a collective regional approach, in order to reduce the impact of residual pesticides activity on Caribbean states.
- Precautionary and preventative measures, he further stressed, should be employed to protect the region from the dangers of pesticides use.
- The Caribbean, he added, could ill-afford to ignore the problem, given the importance of tourism and agricultural exports to job creation in the region.
Minister of Health, John Junor has said that the management of pesticides requires a collective regional approach, in order to reduce the impact of residual pesticides activity on Caribbean states.
Precautionary and preventative measures, he further stressed, should be employed to protect the region from the dangers of pesticides use. The Caribbean, he added, could ill-afford to ignore the problem, given the importance of tourism and agricultural exports to job creation in the region.
The Minister’s remarks came in response to the recent report by the Pesticides Control Authority (PCA) of high residue levels of pesticides found on imported vegetables.
Speaking at the PCA’s recent launch of the national plan of action to focus on the collection of data on pesticides in the environment, as well as residue in food, Minister Junor said with increased globalization, food produced anywhere in the world with high residue levels of pesticides, could be sold to unsuspecting consumers.
It was for this reason, he said, that it was critical to have a regional approach to the management of pesticides.
However, the Minister lamented that despite the long history of international assistance in pesticides management, especially in the area of developing legislation for pesticides in the region, in addition to the establishment of Pesticides Control Boards (PCBs), many island states still lagged behind in terms of infrastructure and their ability to be effective.
In Jamaica, he pointed out, the PCA, with its full time staff was able to manage the issue of pesticides registration, licensing and control. By virtue of this fact, the Minister said, the PCA was able to lead the implementation of the Caribbean Agro-Chemical Management Project (CAMP), which identified four priority areas, including the focus on monitoring and collecting data relating to pesticides residue, to commence work on.
The other areas include pesticide related legislation throughout the Caribbean; fostering good agricultural practices; and, building institutional capabilities of those persons who are involved in pesticide management.
Minister Junor said further that, Jamaica was making strides in all the four areas outlined under CAMP. Citing the significant improvements in the registration of pesticides, he said that the experience of the PCA had put Jamaica in good stead to assist the regional coordinating group of PCBs in the implementation of regional registration of pesticides, based on the system currently employed locally.
“We anticipate that this harmonized system of registration for the Caribbean will be implemented in line with the CARICOM Single Market and Economy,” he said.
Meanwhile, Minister Junor said that the national plan of action being executed by the PCA, would further improve monitoring by establishing a committee that would oversee the issue of pesticides residue on food and in the environment.
The committee, he informed, would comprise representatives from the government and non-governmental organizations, the medical community, laboratories, people with knowledge of agriculture production techniques, and persons, who have interest in food safety.
Commenting on the progress of the creation of a centralized food safety agency, Minister Junor argued that while there were countries scurrying around to establish food safety agencies based on a variety of models being “sold”, the Ministry “did not think it was the right approach”.
“We feel that we need to look at, what it is that we are doing right in our own countries, and to draw from those and, indeed where we have made mistakes, to correct those, and to preserve those elements that have served us well over time,” he pointed out.
In light of this recognition, the Minister said, three portfolio ministries with responsibilities for food safety matters – Health, Agriculture and Commerce – had accepted a memorandum of understanding as a first step towards improving and meeting the required food safety standards, both locally and for international purposes.
“The objective of this memorandum is to remove overlaps, identify and fill gaps and, generally to improve efficiency among our ministries and agencies. One of the highlights of the MOU is that, it specifies the need for establishing maximum residual levels of pesticides and other contaminants on food, therefore this activity will contribute to the CAMP project,” he stated.
The Minister, however said, in the long term, serious consideration would be given to a single regional food safety agency. “We want to proceed with caution. Whatever decision is finally taken, we must be assured that it is the best interest in the protection of public health,” he cautioned.
In the financial year 2003/04 approximately 2,571 tons of pesticides were imported into Jamaica. This represented an increase of 11 per cent over the previous year.