Online seminar: Pesticide Handling and Human Health: Organic and Conventional Cotton in Benin

Open online seminar with Arne Henningsen, IFRO


It is well known that synthetic pesticides can have detrimental effects on the health of humans, particularly when handled inappropriately, which is often the case in developing countries. We investigate to what extent the detrimental health effects can be mitigated by using protective equipment during pesticide application. Our empirical analysis is based on data from smallholder cotton farmers in Benin and includes both conventional cotton farmers who extensively use synthetic pesticides and organic cotton farmers who are only allowed to use bio-pesticides. Using per-capita health expenditure as proxy for the health of the farmers, our results show that conventional cotton farmers generally have a significantly poorer health than organic cotton farmers, because most conventional farmers wear insufficient or inappropriate protective equipment when spraying pesticides. While the use of protective equipment largely improves the health of conventional farmers, it has no significant effect on the health of organic cotton farmers, which could indicate that bio-pesticides have much smaller detrimental health effects than synthetic pesticides. However, when using more than four items of protective equipment, conventional farmers no longer have a poorer health than organic farmers. Hence, measures that encourage conventional cotton farmers to use more protective equipment or to adopt organic farming will substantially improve the health of these farmers.

Project SCOPA

Find more information on the project 'SCOPA – Sustainable Cotton Production in Africa: Organic Cotton for Employment, Growth and Environment?' here: