Experts call for urgent harmonised regulation of biopesticides in Zimbabwe

-Most biopesticides are being imported hence the border control has placed them in the same category as synthetic pesticides.

John Cassim

Harare, Zimbabwe – Experts in the agricultural value chain in Zimbabwe, have called on the harmonised regulation of biopesticides as the status quo makes them expensive and cumbersome to deal with.

Biopesticides are derived from biological sources, exist in nature, and are comparatively benign to the environment compared to synthetic pesticides.

Research on biopesticides has advanced with the discovery of fungi, bacteria, viruses, and nematodes that are capable of suppressing known and stubborn pests of crops.

Some of these products are still under trial but the commercialisation of a number of them has already begun, hence the call for a harmonised regulation in line with the Southern Africa Biopesticides Project.

However, challenges have emanated regarding regulating biopesticides with existing laws, how they are categorized when imported, and the use of labels and color codes that are different from the ones in the country.

“Biopesticides are options for pest management, if we could abide by the regulations put in place and embrace wider usage that would be beneficial.

However, what is natural does not always translate to less risk to non-target organisms or humans, if they have the intrinsic ability to kill or suppress pests, they also have the potential to suffer the same fate as that of chemical pesticides,” Dr. Dumisani Kutywayo, Chief Director in the Agriculture Ministry, said this week.

Definition and Category of Biopesticides

A two-day workshop under the auspices of the Southern Africa Biopesticides Project titled, “Targeted Interventions Towards Enhancing, The Registration, And Use Of Biopesticides In Zimbabwe” was held in the capital Harare, this week.

Through the support from the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) and the Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF), the gatherings are meant to enhance trade through regulatory harmonisation and Biopesticide based residue mitigation in the SADC Region.

Most biopesticides are being imported hence the border control has placed them in the same category as synthetic pesticides.

An Environmental Management Agency (EMA) representative described biopesticides as hazardous substances according to Statutory Instrument 144 of 2012 and Statutory Instrument 268 of 2018, yet researchers and farmers say otherwise.

This is a big problem that is calling for the amendment of the statutes.

Such definitions and categories have made biopesticides expensive and difficult to import, and the effect is passed on to farmers.

Only registered biopesticides should be used in Zimbabwe and only registered companies (and not individuals) are allowed to import, sell, or export pesticides.

The core business of the entities should be that of distribution of pesticides and not retailing.

The companies’ owners should be holders of at least a Diploma in Agriculture or other relevant qualifications to deal with pesticides.

Shumirai Muhera, from the Ministry of Agriculture’s Department of Research and Specialists Services, said all pesticides sold in Zimbabwe must be on a Zimbabwean label that has been approved by the Pesticides Registrar.

“To consider registration of biopesticides we look at the effects on human health.

For effects on the environment, the National Biotechnology Authority (NBA) is involved whereas for efficacy, the Farm Feeds and Remedies Institute (FFRI), Plant Protection Research Institute (PPRI), Tobacco Research Board (TRB), and research Institutions are the regulators,” she said.

Residue and Efficacy

Dr Dennis Ndolo, the Project Manager of the Integrated Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology advocated for the bi-application of synthetic pesticides and biopesticides to mitigate chemical residue in crops.

“Pesticide residues are primarily determined by the last application, therefore, the strategic use of non-residue producing biopesticides at the point of late-season pest control would reduce residue levels and enhance compliance with MRL standards and promote trade,” he said.

Dr Ndolo said the Southern African region has the highest synthetic pesticide use followed by West Africa, Middle Africa, and East Africa according to studies.

This has seen fruits such as Avocado and Mangoes from the region trading lowly on the international market. The total pesticide use in this region is estimated to double by 2040 hence the urgent call for harmonised use and registration of pesticides.

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