“It’s a slow killer and is affecting our farmers,” an expert says.
The Coalition Against Paraquat (CAP) has called for the ban and de-registration of paraquat, a broad-spectrum non-selective herbicide widely used by farmers in the country.
The coalition, a group of professionals from diverse disciplines, made this known in a report, a copy of which they presented during a courtesy call to PREMIUM TIMES.
The report, titled; “Save the Nigerian farmer and environment from Paraquat toxicity”, is a research publication printed by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), a member of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).
Paraquat is an acute toxic chemical that is widely used as an herbicide (plant killer), primarily for weed and grass control.
The report said after several decades of its usage in Nigeria, studies have confirmed the chemical substance is highly poisonous and has been linked to numerous incidents that affect the health of end users (mostly farmers)
It says the most established routes of exposure to Paraquat include: oral ingestion through the mouth (swallowing or eating some highly contaminated food item), dermal or skin contact especially in non-intact skin with sores, cuts, or severe rashes, and by inhalation through the nose that can lead to lung damage.
The report noted, “if a person survives the toxic effects of Paraquat poisoning, long-term damage to vital human organs may result such as lung (scarring), kidney failure, heart failure and scarring of the swallowing tube that makes it difficult for a person to swallow.”
“There is an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease later in life. People with large ingestions of Paraquat are not likely to survive,” part of the report reads.
Speaking on this, Simon Irtwange, chairman, technical committee on Nigeria Yam export programme, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), said “if we (Nigerian government) cannot save our farmers from bandits, kidnappers and Boko Haram, let’s save them from the dangers Paraquat.”
“There’s no conflict of interest here, we’re not trying to de-market or promote anybody’s business, what we’re saying has been scientifically proving that Paraquat is toxic to both farmers and the surrounding environment, hence, should be prohibited and banned from the Nigerian market,” he said.
Mr Irtwange, a professor, said “recent studies have shown that Paraquat can be found in tomatoes, if the herbicide was used during land preparation to grow tomatoes or other vegetables that could be eaten directly as salads”.
He said some studies also shows that Paraquat when ingested targets the brain, causing huge damage to the body systems.
He said “many bad things have happened to Nigerian farmers due to the continuous influx of Paraquat and that they cannot continue to tolerate Paraquat when most developed and developing countries are banning or de-registering it”.
“The issue is that some our farmers have the side effects of Paraquat use but they will think that it is the side effects associated with farm stress, so they will never go to seek medical attention,” he said.
“It’s a slow killer and it is affecting our farmers,” he added.
Godwin Aster, IITA digital extension and rural advisory services specialist, also weighed in.
He said “if Nigeria wants to achieve green revolution as done in Asia, apart from promoting the planting of good crop varieties, we must be able to promote good, safe and environmentally friendly herbicides.”
“It’s not that we’re saying herbicide usage is bad, we need them more than before because our population is growing up but that we need to be more efficient, and say no to hazardous chemicals.”
The report had Paraquat can be easily mixed with food, water or other beverages, “since they’re some brand that are colourless and odorless”.
“If the form that is used does not contain the safeguarding additives (dye,odour,and vomiting agent), people might not know that food, water or other beverages are contaminated, eating or drinking Paraquat- contaminated food or beverages can poison people,” the ground warned in the report.
Meanwhile, M.G.M Kolo, president, Weed Science Society of Nigeria (WSSN), a professor at the Federal University of Technology, Minna, Niger State, said “if we (Nigeria) claim truly that we’re the giant of Africa, then we should take the lead in the banning of Paraquat usage, so that other smaller countries can do same as being done in Côte d’Ivoire and other countries.”
Paraquat in Nigeria
Paraquat can be found in agrochemical companies, agro-dealers’ shops, open markets, and retail shops and in rural farming communities growing crops, where it is predominantly used to control weeds before and after land preparation.
Paraquat is traded in Nigeria under different trade names which include: Gramoxone super, Send-off, Dragon, Paraforce , Dizmazone-20%, weed crusher, and Paraquat liquid.
Other trade names are Bret P-20 liquid, Miazone, Premium paraquat, Ravage, Uniquat, Mxiquat, Paracot, Para one, Paratex, Slasher, Scud, Weedex 200 SI, Baraquat liquid, Chemquat, Glopara liquid, Grass cutter 20 %, Philozone, Paracom Eraser LQ, Paragliquid, Reliquat and Uniquat liquid.
Countries exporting Paraquat to Nigeria
According to the CAP report, while Paraquat has been banned by the European Union, America and even by some African countries like Côte d’Ivoire and Zambia, China accounts for more than 60 per cent of the formulations imported into Nigeria, and of 80 per cent of the total export to the world.
However, the report said China had planned to prohibit or ban the use and sales of any Paraquat formulation since September this year.
Other countries including Germany, India, South Africa, Switzerland and the UK account for less than 40 per cent of the imported products to Nigeria.
“From the above analysis, it is very clear that deregistration of Paraquat in Nigeria is the quickest way to save a multitude of current users from preventable death, as well as to protect our environment and secure our future,” the group said in the report.
The group said because of the aforementioned, “marketers and producers must come together and quickly give Nigerian farmers alternatives to bank on”.
They said some of the alternatives to Paraquat include herbicides whose active ingredients include; Glyphosate, Glufosinate-ammonium, Diphenyl ether, Aryloxyphenoxy-propionate and cyclohexanedione.
“We strongly recommend that the Federal Republic of Nigeria through the appropriate agency (NAFDAC) re-register the importation and prohibit the distribution, sale and use of Paraquat in Nigeria,” the report said.