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Fake Aldrin Cheats Kenyan Farmers
January 14, 2000
Following reports in Kenya of sales of aldrin, a highly toxic pesticide and persistent organic pollutant, the Kenyan Pest Control Products Board (PCPB) conducted an investigation and confiscated stocks of the banned pesticide. Analysis of the products seized by the PCPB found no trace of the active ingredient aldrin. The picture that emerged during the investigation demonstrates the problems facing regulators in developing countries and farmers, who still rely on the reputation of older products and who lack access to safe and affordable alternatives.
The PCPB investigation came as a result of a report in the journal of the Pesticides Trust (UK) by a farmer in the Othaya region of Kenya. He had found that aldrin was being sold in four out of five local pesticide shops. The investigation received support from Shell Chemicals Ltd, London, and the Global Crop Protection Federation (GCPF) Safe Use Project in Kenya.
Shell was the sole producer of aldrin from 1952 to 1990, and sales of the pesticide were halted worldwide in 1991. The company sold its pesticide business in the early 1990s to American Cyanamid, but maintains an active stewardship interest in its past products.
Since aldrin was withdrawn in 1991, farmers have paid higher prices for termite control products that are less persistent and require more frequent applications. Aldrin's reputation as a highly effective pesticide leads to high sales of products that are incorrectly labeled as aldrin. Counterfeiters also place the familiar Shell logo on the label to help boost the price.
As part of the investigation, PCPB inspectors visited all pesticide shops in the region and impounded any product alleged to contain aldrin. The laboratory of the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service found no aldrin in any of the confiscated samples it analyzed although traces of unidentified pesticides were found in some samples. All the labels bearing the Shell logo were forgeries.
The PCPB regulates imports, exports, manufacture, distribution, sale and use of pesticides in Kenya, but like most regulatory authorities in developing countries, it is constrained by a limited budget. PCPB has only seven inspectors who must cover between 2,500 and 3,000 wholesale and retail shops selling pesticides. Annual inspections are random and unannounced, and follow-up visits impound fake and unregistered products. Between 1997 and 1999, inspectors confiscated nine tons of counterfeit or unregistered products.
Fake pesticides are widely available in Kenya, and the PCPB has found that raising the awareness of farmers regarding this problem is difficult. In July 1999, the PCPB published the names of 103 local companies that exploit farmers by marketing counterfeit products. PCPB has cautioned farmers saying that these fake products made locally have little or no active ingredients in the formulations.
The worst type of counterfeit pesticides is the powder or dust formulations used for preserving maize. Often made of chalk dust and talc powder, these fake formulations may have been responsible for the mass spoilage of maize in 1998 in Kenya.
PCPB and the Kenya Agrochemicals Association encourage farmers to report suspect products to them to help build better cooperation between farmers, regulators and industry. According to the Pesticides Trust, actions taken by the PCPB and industry have established a sound approach for dealing with hazardous and obsolete pesticides, and could act as an example for other industry and regulatory initiatives.
Source: Pesticide News 46, December 1999.
Contact: The Pesticides Trust, Eurolink Centre, 49 Effra Road, London SW2 1BZ UK; phone (44-020) 7274 8895; fax (44-020) 7274 9084; email firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.ful.ac.be/hotes/sandrine/pestrust.htm.