AGRICULTURE and Health Ministry officials assured members of the Local Authorities, Service Commissions and Statutory Authorities joint select committee (JSC) that better efforts are being made towards better use of pesticides in TT.
They gave these assurances to JSC members during a virtual meeting with them on Wednesday.
JSC chairman, Independent Senator Dr Varma Deyalsingh, expressed concern about the ways in which pesticides could affect people, animals and the environment.
"Heavy metals (coming from pesticides) can be found in our fish, pregnant women and unborn children are affected." Besides being a legislator and a citizen, Deyalsingh said this issue also concerned him in his capacity as a physician.
He added that measures must be taken "to mitigate against the poisoning that occurs in our environment."
Pesticides and Toxic Chemicals Control Board registrar Hasmath Ali said its inspectorate "is very vigilant with regards to issues that occur in the public domain with regards to pesticides being abused and misused."
Information on these matters are relayed from the inspectorate to the board.
Ali said the board then reviews these matters in relation to the regulations under the Pesticides and Toxic Chemicals Act.
"The inspectorate is also very engaging as it comes to public awareness and certification with regards to the safe us and distribution of pesticides in TT."
As a signatory to the Stockholm and Rotterdam Conventions, Ali said TT bans the importation and use of a group of pesticides labelled by those conventions as "the dirty dozen."
Those pesticides are aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, hexachlorobenzene (HCB), mirex, toxaphene, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB), polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDD) and polychlorinated dibenzofurans.
Asked by Deyalsingh whether the inspectorate does random testing of food to determine if there was excessive pesticide use, Ali said the law "does not allow us to do that."
Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Ayanna Webster-Roy expressed concern about a social media post showing a yellow substance oozing out of a food item. She said steps should be taken to detect potential poisoning of food before people, especially children, are allowed to eat anything which could be harmful.
Government senator Laurence Hislop opined that sometimes farmers could use a large amount of pesticides on their crops just before harvesting, to make them look good. But he added this could cause problems later on.
Webster-Roy agreed with Hislop. She said there have been instances in the past where produce imported into Tobago from Trinidad, do not last long because they contain too many chemicals.
Deyalsingh said this underscored the need for better safeguards to protect the public against pesticide abuse.
"Most of the population is helpless."
In response to questions from Deyalsingh, Ali said measures are in place to restrict use of pesticides only to bonafide farmers and not to people who could be perceived to be suicide prone.
"Certain pesticides would be available to farmers only."
Ali added there are products which are less toxic which could be used by ordinary citizens and small agriculturalists.
Acting permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Dr Simone Titus gave the assurances that no harmful pesticides are used in domestic honey production.
Deyalsingh asked if any chemicals which could be harmful to people were used by the Health Ministry for insect vector control.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram said the ministry is guided by the Pesticides and Toxic Chemicals Act, the Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions and World Health Organization (WHO) regulations on this matter.