• How Do Insecticides Affect Farming Communities? - Chromatography Investigates

Gas Chromatography

How Do Insecticides Affect Farming Communities? - Chromatography Investigates

Jul 26 2020

Agriculture plays a significant role in the economy of most African countries. Whether it is feeding the continents population or exporting to global markets – growing fruit and vegetables is essential for the economies of countries from South Africa to Egypt. Ghana ranks sixth in the list of countries that exported fruit and vegetables to the European Union. With almost 100,000 tonnes of fresh fruit and vegetables imported in a year, earning Ghana around $80 million in 2007.

But in the years following 2007, the share of fruit and vegetables exported fell – in 2007 40,000 MT of pineapples were exported and this fell to 31,500 MT in 2009. The gradual decline could be attributed to insect pests and crop diseases which decreased crop yields. In an attempt to protect their crops farmers turned to pesticides. But at what cost? A paper published in the International Journal of Science and Research reports on the effects of pesticides in farming communities in Ghana.

Keeping the pests at bay

Fruit and vegetables make up a significant part of many people’s diets and can generate significant income for some communities. But when pests and diseases strike the crops can appear unattractive and get rejected by consumers and more importantly the buyers who represent the major retailers. Farmers must take drastic measures, particularly if they are relying on a crop to enable them to survive economically. Unfortunately, one of the easiest methods to protect crops is to spray them with potentially hazardous chemicals including organophosphates and organochlorines.

If organophosphates and organochlorides are not used correctly, they can cause problems for farmers, consumers, and the environment. Runoff from the insecticides can contaminate water courses and soil which can lead to health problems if people use those water courses as a source of drinking water. Residues from the insecticides can also accumulate in the crops grown and these can cause problems for the consumers who might buy and eat the crops. Indiscriminate use of these insecticides can cause them to contaminate crops and plants other than the target plants.

Chromatography helps to assess the impact

There is little published data on the impact of pesticides on the environment and humans. The scientists behind the paper referenced above set out to rectify this. They determined to assess the residue levels of insecticides in water sediments, cabbages, and human breast milk to see the possible implications of insecticide residues to the health of breast-fed infants in a typical Ghanaian farming community.

The researchers used gas chromatography to analyse the samples for pesticide residues. GC is an ideal tool for pesticide analysis as discussed in the article, Measurement of Pesticides in Cannabis sativa and Hemp Matrices Using a Gas Chromatograph-Triple Quadrupole Mass Spectrometer. The authors of the study conclude that: The study revealed the presence of persistent, bioacumulative, and toxic DDTS, HCHs, endosulfan and HCB in human fluids and at levels that raise public health concerns.

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