(MENAFN - Muscat Daily) Research on the safe use of pesticides in Oman has recently been honoured by inclusion in a special edition of a top international scientific research journal.
The work was conducted by Dr Said al Zadjali from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs and Professor Mike Deadman from the College of Agricultural and Marine Sciences at Sultan Qaboos University (SQU), along with collaborators from Surrey University in UK.Science of the Total Environment
is one of the highest ranking academic journals; publishing research results from around the world. It has recently produced a special online edition that brings together a limited number of the most important papers published on pesticides research over the last few years. The inclusion of the work in the special edition highlights the value of the research in documenting the processes involved in pesticide use in Oman and especially the dangers arising from the disposal of obsolete and surplus chemicals and their containers.
The results came from a farm level examination of the decision-making processes used by farm owners and farm workers when deciding about the deployment of chemical methods for the control of pests and diseases on food crops. The research has serious implications not only for the safety of those involved in the application of pesticides on farms, but also for the protection of the environment and the healthiness of the food that reaches our tables.
Professor Deadman said that the research was conducted initially in Batinah governorates and covered over 200 farms although the work has recently expanded to cover all other agricultural regions of Oman.
He said that farm-based surveys had shown up differences in attitudes towards pesticides between those owning and working on farms that were members of the Batinah Farmers' Association and those from farms not in the association.
On farms in the association the pesticides being used were mainly higher quality products from major international producers and obsolete products and empty containers were more likely to be disposed of according to government requirements. Fewer pesticides that were prohibited under the recent Royal Decree were found on farms that were members of the association.
In contrast, farms that were not part of the association were more likely to be using cheap (and potentially inferior and possibly dangerous) pesticide products, were more likely to be using products that were prohibited by the Royal Decree and were less likely to dispose of unwanted pesticides and their containers according to government guidelines.
On farms which were not under the association, empty pesticide containers were most likely to be left lying around on the soil or perhaps to be collected and burned on site. Both practices are very hazardous. Empty pesticide containers are an obvious danger to livestock and people, especially children. The burning of empty containers is also a serious source of pollution as such containers are unlikely to have been cleaned before being burned. Pesticide residues or their combustion products are then released into the atmosphere.
Professor Deadman said that he hoped that in future the research could be expanded to cover other aspects of pesticide use in Oman, along the lines recently outlined in his address to the Shura Council by the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.
''Much of what happens on farms comes down to the perception of risk. What we started calling 'Recognise the Risks'. Risk can either be embraced or avoided; some of us like it, some run from it. There are risks involved in growing certain crops - some are likely to need more pesticide protection than others, they are more inherently susceptible to pests and diseases. The study results show that Farmers' Association farmers are more likely to embrace risk and grow high risk-reward crops, and yet by using appropriate, high quality products at the correct rates, the dangers of contamination and over exposure (leading to pesticide residues on food) are minimal. In contrast on a poorly managed farm risky crops are avoided and risks to yield are eliminated by excessive use of chemicals. The problem is that this transfers the risk to us - the risk of pesticide contamination of our food,'' Professor Deadman said.
''We need to reinforce the path of pesticide enlightenment that starts with correct problem diagnosis, continues through selection of appropriate pesticide product and correct application procedure and ends with observance of the waiting period between pesticide application and crop harvesting.''
Professor Deadman, with colleagues from the ministries is working towards the introduction of certificate programmes that must be taken by those involved in pesticide applications; the rigorous enforcement of border controls to prevent the importation of prohibited pesticides into Oman; restrictions on the use of cheap copies of pesticides that could contain high levels of contaminants and the issuance of clearer guidelines on recommended pesticides for particular crop problems. ''For the sake of our health, the health of farmers and the health of the environment, we need to ensure that the use of pesticides is ever more closely controlled and in line with government policy,'' Professor Deadman adde