View of part of the Fujairah Corniche and the Hajar Mountains in the Background

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

UAE Holds World Record in Use of Pesticides and Fertilizers

Another world record for the UAE but this achievement may pose serious health risks to consumers in the Emirates. So says a recently released 2008 Report of the Arab Forum for Environment and Development entitled, Arab Environment Future Challenges.

Here is the relevant statement (p15) from the Executive Summary of the report:

Highest Use of Pesticides and Fertilizers in the World
“Pesticides and fertilizers are widely used in the Arab region, and in many cases, misused.”

“The use of NPK fertilizers in Arab countries quadrupled between 1970 and 2002, with the UAE and Egypt (more than 900 kg fertilisers per hectare)… using some of the highest quantities of fertilizers per hectare in the world.”

Serious Health Issue
“The heavy use of pesticides and fertilizers brings about concerns regarding food safety as a public health issue.”

Lack of Regulation, Analysis, Awareness
“What is lacking in most of the Arab region is regulation and control over the sale, handling, and use of pesticides. In addition, accredited pesticide residue analysis laboratories are not available in most Arab countries. As such, new legislation and institutional commitments are necessary in this regard. These issues need to be tackled at the regional level. Many countries in the region have the resources and capacities for a better performance; what is missing is clear awareness of the subject.”

Demand Dwindling
“With several parts of the world moving towards organic farming, the demand for chemical fertilizers is expected to dwindle. This will pose a serious challenge to the big producers of fertilizers in the Arab petro-chemical industries, who will have to be ready for diversification into new products.”

This independent report makes some serious claims that require an urgent response by government regulators and local growers. It is interesting to see that a major concern about the dwindling of the use of chemical fertilizers due to the move towards organic farming relates to how the chemical industry might be ready to diversify.

The greatest concern in this report is the overuse and misuse of fertilizers and pesticides and the health risk to those who eat the produce farmed in the UAE.

Going Organic
If ever there is a stimulus to organic farming in the UAE it is contained in this report. If consumers demand organic fruit and vegetables it might be one way of protesting against the misuse of chemicals and be a boost to organic farming and gardening in the Emirates.

ed. Mostafa K Tolba and Najib W Saab, Arab Environment Future Challenges, AFED, 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Cover of the AFED Report.