Much ado about sniper treated beans
By Taiwo Hassan
Online video of some farmers applying sniper to treat pest-infested beans, which went viral recently prompted the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) to educate Nigerians on how to avoid sniper-treated beans. This has created uncertainty in Nigeria’s beans export market and low sales of the produce, Taiwo Hassan writes
Despite a huge market of over 400 million Euros in Nigeria’s Pest Control and Fumigation Industry, only about 20 million Euros has been tapped by the country, the Managing Director, Rotimax Integrated Services Limited, Tolu Caled, had said.
He spoke at a two-day training and certification programme for intending Managing Directors of pest control and fumigation companies in Lagos recently.
Particularly, he said pest control and fumigation industry was very lucrative, especially in Abuja, Port Harcourt and Lagos, but added that professionals in other parts of the country can also do very well in this area if the business environment is conducive.
“Ignorance has made it look like the business is not lucrative in terms of venturing into pest control herbicides and pesticides for crop preservation,” he said. “I have gone for jobs where a client was shocked that I could speak good English. I am a graduate who studied economics; we have M.Sc and Ph.D holders in this business and we have been doing well.”
Indeed, the importance of applying pesticides and herbicides on agricultural produce has been there for ages because of the diseases that feast on crops during harvests.
However, that of beans application of pest control has been marred with controversy in Nigeria after the sudden emergence of an online video of some farmers applying sniper to treat pests infested beans.
Effect of bean weevils
The bean weevils or seed beetles are a subfamily (Bruchinae) of beetles, now placed in the family Chrysomelidae, though they have historically been treated as a separate family. They are granivores, and typically infest various kinds of seeds or beans, living most of their lives inside a single seed. The family includes about 4,350 species and is found worldwide.
Bean weevils are generally compact and oval in shape, with small heads somewhat bent under. Sizes range from 1 to 22 mm for some tropical species. Colors are usually black or brown, often with mottled patterns. Although their mandibles may be elongated, they do not have the long snouts characteristic of true weevils.
Adults deposit eggs on seeds, then the larvae chew their way into the seed. When ready to pupate, the larvae typically cut an exit hole, and then return to their feeding chamber. Adult weevils have a habit of feigning death and dropping from a plant when disturbed.
Host plants tend to be legumes, but species will also be found in Convolvulaceae, Arecaceae, and Malvaceae, and several species are considered pests.
Experts’ divergent views
According to an agriculturist and agro-researcher, Hussein Ahmed, it is alarming that since the story of the online video of the sniper treated beans broke out of proportion, there have been stakeholders’ divergent views on the safety of pest application and control in infested beans in circulation.
Ahmed explained that the issue has been exaggerated in all ramifications, noting that the so-called sniper is allowed under law to be applied on infested agricultural produce as part of pest control.
He noted that sniper is manufactured by Saro Agro-sciences Limited for control of pests in agricultural produce and for warehouse dis-infestation among other uses.
The agro expert added that the direction for usage in every condition is spelt out on each container of sniper by the manufacturing firm.
“This is a rejoinder to the stories making rounds about someone who says they saw Hausa boys putting sniper on beans,” he said. “Sometimes these issues are exaggerated and misrepresented. Sniper is manufactured by Saro Agrosciences limited for control of pests in agricultural produce and for warehouse dis-infestation among other uses.
“Direction for usage in every condition is spelt out on each container of Sniper. Yes, the boys may over-do it out of ignorance or the person may see a bottle of sniper and say, Yes, Hausa want to kill us. The average Hausa boy is a born farmer and they know the ratio of the mixture for sniper from childhood. They store grains daily and yearly. All over the world, pest control herbicides and pesticides are used for crop preservation and we are advised to wash all grains and crops thoroughly before cooking and eating.
Besides, he said the sniper issues is neither a Nigerian problem nor religious or political.
“Rice from Thailand has heavy pesticides to protect it from insect infestation during its long journey by sea to the rest of the world,” he explained. “Just wash well. We are all safe. Stop spreading fear and hate please. If you mean so well for the Nation, then may the well you mean for Nigeria start in your bedroom.”
The Crop Protection Specialist, Ogun State Agricultural Development Programme, Dr. Rotimi Akinlesi, said that sniper is a highly effective insecticide/miticide that controls over 30 foliar and soil borne pests. According to him, sniper gives growers the flexibility and residual activity needed to combat insects in conventional or biotech systems.
He said that sniper contains Dichlorvos, which is used on crops, animals, and in pest-strips.
The agro specialist noted that acute (short-term) and chronic (long-term) exposures of humans to dichlorvos results in the inhibition of an enzyme, acetylcholinesterase, with neurotoxic effects including perspiration, vomiting, diarrhea, drowsiness, fatigue, headache, and at high concentrations, convulsions, and coma.
“No information is available on the reproductive, developmental, or carcinogenic effects of dichlorvos on humans,” he said.
“A study by the National Toxicology Program (NTP) reported an increased incidence of tumors of the pancreas, mammary glands, and forestomach in animals. EPA has classified dichlorvos as a Group B2, probable human carcinogen”.
Effects of sniper on human
According to Centre for Disease Control, effects of exposure may include irritation of eyes, skin; miosis, ache eyes; rhinorrhea (discharge of thin nasal mucus); headache; chest tightness, wheezing and laryngeal spasm. Others are salivation; cyanosis; anorexia, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea; sweating; muscle fasciculation, paralysis, dizziness and ataxia
How to spot sniper treated beans
Pour the beans in a bowl or bucket of water. Stir for about 20 seconds If there is an oily film on the water, then note that the beans has chemicals sprayed on it. Then, watch out for the weevils now! Yes!!! You need one or two weevils in your beans to show you that the bean is not preserved with chemicals.
In a press statement, the Consumer Protection Council advised Nigerians on how to avoid the food poisoning associated with the act, saying consumers of the grain to extensively parboil beans already stocked before consumption as well as to make sufficient enquiries before engaging in new purchases.
The statement, which was released and signed by its Director-General, Mr. Babatunde Irukera, said that consumers should also wash their food items before cooking.
“In any and every case, thoroughly washing food items before consumption or preparation for consumption is a generally accepted method of protecting and promoting safety,” the DG said.
The CPC boss said the government agency “had recently confirmed by credible information that retailers, mostly in the open market are using a pesticide, 2,2-dichlorovinyl dimethyl phosphate (DDVP) compound, otherwise marketed and known as “Sniper” to preserve beans, and more particularly to eliminate or protect from weevils”.
Irukera said that sniper, by its chemical composition and nature, is potentially injurious when human beings are “unduly exposed by inhalation, absorption, direct skin contact or ingestion”, stressing that the “risk of injury on account of consumption of beans exposed to, or treated with Sniper is also existential, even though, an unintended consequence”.
The government needs to douse the tension created by sniper infected beans and give assurance to Nigerians and the international market that all is well with beans produced in the country.
Culled from New Telegraph