Herbicides can cause cancers, other killer diseases

By Bathel Shuro

CHINHOYI – FARMERS in the country are increasingly using herbicides in their farming
practices, raising concerns over their effects on people and the environment.
Recent research shows that excessive use of herbicides can lead to the development of various
cancers and other killer diseases in both humans and animals.
Tawanda Kaseke, an Environmental Consultant for Mashonaland West Province, said in an
interview that, research shows that in some countries the herbicides have been detected in
humans but in Zimbabwe very little research has been conducted, although the country does not
use herbicides intensively, like the western world.
“In some countries they have done research on how some of these herbicides end up in the water,
then assimilated into fish and people then consume those fish, leading to possible health
“These health issues include various forms of cancers, kidney problems, mental issues,
respiratory challenges, and other reproductive abnormalities in both humans and animals, and
miscarriages,” explained Kaseke.
He added that there were notable effects of herbicides on the environment and these varied with
the type of chemicals.
The herbicides are normally applied on land but what happens is that during the rainy season,
after application, it rains then they end up being washed away into rivers, then from the rivers
they flow into dams and other areas.
He explained that: “If tests are to be conducted within rivers of a farming community, we will
find a lot of these herbicides. Having animals drinking from those same water sources means that
they are probably drinking a lot of chemicals.
“When we consume the beef, we are also consuming chemicals. When people drink such water
they expose themselves to chemicals.”
In Zimbabwe very little research has been conducted on the effects of herbicides on various
components of the environment, for example, how long some of these herbicides stay in the soil
and which kind of soil organism are affected.
“But we do know that certain chemical components within those environments have been noted
as causing certain effects including killing micro-organisms that contribute to soil fertility. They
affect the soil, land, water and the atmosphere.”

He noted that limitations to conducting these researches was that the kind of equipment needed
to analyse these herbicides were expensive and most laboratories in Zimbabwe did not have such
“Although we can not yet specify unless we have done research, we do know that some of these
herbicides cause diseases that our farmers develop because of inappropriate handling of these
chemicals,” he added.
Negative effects of herbicides can be controlled by the way the chemicals are applied. If applied
correctly it can remove the disadvantages, so what is important is monitoring so that the
disadvantages can be reduced.
Environmental Management Agency (EMA) Acting Provincial Manager, Simbarashe Maduuro,
urged farmers not to use the herbicides excessively because in the long term they have an effect
on the soil quality resulting in the depletion of organic matter content of the soil.
“As the agency, we encourage farmers to use traditional, mechanical and manual methods of
weed control other than excessive dependency on the herbicides which affect soil quality in the
long term,” said Maduuro.
He also said they were currently carrying out an operation to weed out suppliers selling
herbicides without licences.
“We are targeting suppliers or agro-dealers of herbicides. We have been doing a local operation
to try and weed out those who have been selling herbicides without licences and the operation is
ending this Friday.”
Farmers were also encouraged to buy these herbicides from registered dealers so that they are not
sold fake products.

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