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Charging Responsibility for the Repercussions of Pesticide Usage in Post-War Francophone Africa

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Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1960) spurred regulation of pesticides in the west in the 1970s, but agricultural labourers in the tropics have continued to work with insecticides up to the present. This article relates the experiences of farmers in Senegal and other former French colonies with pesticides and analyses concerns over their uses. In mid-twentieth century West Africa, ‘prosperous peasants’ launched economic booms and helped their countries gain degrees of independence. But overlooking pesticide usage ignores the sacrifices and violence done to the communities involved. Some French scientists were disturbed by insecticides’ consequences in the former colonies. Yet their concerns were dismissed in favour of economic expediency, public health and political loyalty. The blame shifted from the industry and onto the users. When agriculture became less profitable and pesticides more expensive, sympathetic concerns were raised once again, but the damage had already been done.
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Keywords: pesticide; public health; working conditions

Appeared or available online: April 10, 2019

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