Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 11th 2017 Contents SUNDAY 11 JUNE, 2017 – UWI TODAY 11
FACULTY OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY RESEARCH SYMPOSIUM 2017
In early April, Winnette Collimore presented some
of the work she has been doing to measure the levels
of pesticide residue in local foods.
During the process, fruits and vegetables were
obtained from supermarkets and markets in the central
region. Organochlorine (OCs) and organophosphate
(OPs) pesticide residues were detected in some of the
“ The levels we’ve found so far are below the
maximum residue levels (MRL),” said Collimore, but
their findings provide an important look into the use
of pesticides in local farming and by extension, local
The latest available research is around 20 years old.
Collimore saw it as an avenue to approach the topic in
novel ways since new pesticides and methodologies have
emerged in recent decades, and as Dr. Bent explained,
not all available research applies to this country. “Some
of the pesticides that we use are different,” she says, “our
soil type and climate are different, so we need to get data
which relates specifically to our region and country.”
One of the most noteworthy results of their
work has been the development of a new method of
detecting pesticides. The most common methodology
is the QuEChERS method. (Wikipedia describes it as
a streamlined approach that makes it easier and less
expensive for analytical chemists to examine pesticide
residue in food. The name is a portmanteau word
formed from Quick, Easy, Cheap, Effective, Rugged
Collimore has developed a modified version of
QuEChERS which would be cheaper for people in the
Caribbean. During her presentation, the methodology
received considerable attention from the gathered
faculty and peers.
Their findings so far have been thought-provoking.
“We found pesticide residues such as DDT and its
metabolites in food purchased from the market,”
explains Dr. Bent. “It was surprising because this
pesticide was banned since 1995, more than 20 years
ago. It shows the level of persistence in the environment.”
It wasn’t a cause for concern however, as the levels
were below the MRL.”
Collimore wants people to understand just how
these pesticides can affect the body. “Pesticides are not
just cancer-causing agents,” she says. “ They can affect
every single system of the body.”
Even when people are exposed to them in small
quantities, bioaccumulation over time can give rise to
Despite the dangers, local farmers still use these
Are you the sort of person who carefully washes each fruit and vegetable you picked up at the market?
Do you worry about the quality of the food you are feeding your family? Then the findings of Master’s student
Winnette Collimore and her research supervisor Dr. Grace-Anne Bent of the Department of Chemistry
should spark your interest and maybe a little anxiety.
Should you Wash your Fruit with Soap?
BY DIXIE-ANN BELLE
Dr. Grace-Anne Bent: “We found pesticide residues such as DDT
and its metabolites in food purchased from the market. It was
surprising because this pesticide was banned since 1995, more
than 20 years ago.”
chemicals. They are cheaper, get the job done, and
apparently, it’s tradition.
“Why change to organic farming if my grandfather
and my great-grandfather used it? I’m going to continue
with the same thing,” says Collimore. But she feels
farmers have to be educated as well, and should be
encouraged to have their produce tested for residue. It
will take some doing. Even when she offered free testing
during the research period, they were reluctant.
“ They think that you’re going to call names,” she
explains, and they feel that the information will affect
She feels that if they can be persuaded that with
testing, they can guarantee their crops have low or non-
existent levels of residue, then that branding could be
a gateway for exporting their produce as the testing is
part of export criteria.
Both Collimore and Bent think that the State can
have a significant role in improving pesticide usage.
Dr. Bent suggests stricter guidelines and policies, like
regular testing. She proposes incentives for farmers
who agree to it. Education in using alternative pest
management and more funding for agricultural
research could also have a significant impact.
It is not surprising that Collimore has chosen
this particular research as her focus. This resident of
Longdenville, Chaguanas and alumni of St. Francois
Girls’ College is enthusiastic about chemistry and
her research, as well as for the potential it can have
in investigating societal problems and inventing new
strategies as solutions.
She speaks excitedly about her discoveries, clearly
fascinated by her readings in particular. She admits
being a little paranoid though when she reflects on
what might be found on the foods she and her family
eats. She is particularly aware now that pesticides can
be found in any food commodity like dairy products,
milk and eggs – even her favourite morning tea!
She stresses that the best protection is to limit
exposure to pesticides.
“Wash your crops before use,” she says. “You can
wash with diluted detergent. Peeling... now we suggest
that you peel.”
Unfortunately you can’t completely eradicate your
exposure, but you can lessen it.
What’s the next step in this important research?
Collimore would love to look at other classes of
pesticides. For now, “When everything is conclusive...
we would later on speak more about levels, the
assessment levels we did and what are the scenarios so
far with these pesticide levels in Trinidad and Tobago.”
Dixie-Ann Belle is a freelance writer, editor and proof-reader.
“Pesticides are not just
They can affect every single
system of the body.”
PHOTO: ATIBA CUDJOE
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