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Regulation of Pesticides in Developing Countries

January 2002

Citation: ELR 10045

Author: Jane A. Dwasi

What is an appropriate regulatory response to the enormous growth of pesticide use in developing countries?1 The question falls within the broader issue of how developing countries deal with the consequences of their application of technological packages to agricultural production. As developing countries step up efforts to improve agricultural production, there are rising concerns about the social and economic costs of their agricultural development in terms of the negative health and environmental impact that pesticides are or are likely to cause. Further, developed countries are concerned that adverse effects of pesticides may spill over to their consumers when they import and consume agricultural products on which pesticides have been applied in developing countries. It would be difficult to address the regulatory situation in all developing countries with regard to pesticides. Therefore, this Article focuses on Kenya and seeks to examine the extent to which Kenya's laws prevent, minimize, punish, or remedy consequences and actions involving pesticides. Law plays an enormously important role in protecting health and the environment from adverse consequences of pesticide technology, yet Kenya's existing laws have not provided effective protection to health and the environment from adverse impacts of pesticides.

This Article is not an attack on pesticides or pesticide use as such. What the Article calls for is a rational use of pesticides that allows for consideration of the actual and potential detriments. The Article is not intended to blame Kenya or to highlight its failure in the area of health and environmental protection. Rather, it serves as an example of the kinds of measures a developing country can take to deal with negative consequences of development. After providing a background of pesticide use in Kenya, the Article examines Kenya's laws that are intended to regulate pesticides and laws that are intended for other purposes but have relevance to pesticides. This examination demonstrates that although law would play an enormously important role in protecting health and the environment from adverse consequences of the pesticide technology, Kenya's existing laws have not provided effective protection to health and the environment from adverse impacts of pesticides. The Article also looks at the various international treaties and agreements that regulate the use of pesticides. They too are inadequate for purposes of regulating pesticides in Kenya. The Article then looks at a recently enacted law, the Environmental Management and Coordination Act, that gives hope that pesticides will be better regulated in the country. The Article concludes with a number of suggestions for the improvement of existing laws and their enforcement machinery, including legal reform and the creation of supportive tools and mechanisms. Any measures taken, however, must be suitable to the circumstances of the people of Kenya.

Jane Dwasi is a Visiting Scholar at the Environmental Law Institute where she has focused on the constitutional and statutory protection of the environment, environmental rights of indigenous communities, and environmental advocacy tools for indigenous communities. She holds numerous law degrees from Kenya as well as the United States, including an S.J.D. and a Master of Laws from the University of Wisconsin Law School and a Diploma in Law from the Kenya School of Law. Prior to working at ELI, she was a research assistant for the National Center for Agricultural Law Research and Information in Fayetteville. Arkansas; an attorney for M/S Mereka & Co. in Nairobi. Kenya; and a research attorney for the Kenya Federation of Women Lawyers in Nairobi, Kenya.