Govt rejects US opposition to farm chemicals ban

Govt rejects US opposition to farm chemicals ban

Biothai: Powerful company behind US policy

Worried about its exports, the US is applying pressure for a pause and reconsideration as    the Dec 1 deadline nears on the ban on three toxic farm chemicals. (Photo by Prasit Tangprasert)
Worried about its exports, the US is applying pressure for a pause and reconsideration as the Dec 1 deadline nears on the ban on three toxic farm chemicals. (Photo by Prasit Tangprasert)

The government has rejected US opposition to its decision to ban use of three toxic farm chemicals, the herbicides paraquat and glyphosate and the pesticide chlorpyrifos.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said on Friday officials would be assigned to clearly explain Thailand's position to the US embassy.

Deputy Minister and Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul was more blunt. He said the US was worried only about trade. The Thai government was concerned about the health of Thai consumers 

Gen Prayut said before a meeting on preparations for the Asean Summit that he will instruct relevant officials to explain to the US, through its embassy, the country's policy decision to ban three farm chemicals .

The ban, effective on Dec 1, was approved on Tuesday by the National Hazardous Substances Committee, which upgraded the three farm chemicals from Type 3 toxic substances to Type 4, which prohibits their production, import, export or possession.

In particular, the United States is opposing the ban on glyphosate, an informed source said, citing a copy of a US embassy letter sent to the prime minister and seven other cabinet ministers requesting a delay in imposition of the ban, and a review.

A copy of a document from the US Department of Agriculture supporting the US assertion that a ban on glyphosate will affect Thai imports of US soybeans and US wheat was enclosed with the letter. 

"The US also accused the Thai government of banning glyphosate without sufficient scientific proof and claimed that the chemical has been widely used in the US because it has been proven to be safe in a number of studies," the source said.

The US letter cited an assessment by the US Environmental Protection Agency as well as scientific opinions from agencies in Japan, the European Union, Australia and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations to back its claim that use of glyphosate in farming poses no harm to the health of humans.

Mr Anutin said Washington and the US embassy in Thailand were entitled to worry about trade and commercial aspects of the ban.

"But the Thai government is responsible for ensuring the safety of consumer products," Mr Anutin said. 

“Fearing they won’t be able to sell their products, they are now asking us to lift the ban. Should we bow to this move?” 

The NHSC has 29 members who are experts in the field and they studied the advantages and disadvantages of the ban for a long time before arriving at their conclusion to ban the chemicals, Mr Anutin said. 

He was adamant the ban was being implemented for the sake of the public health.

Biodiversity Sustainable Agriculture Food Sovereignty Action Thailand (Biothai) posted on its Facebook page that the US opposition to Thailand’s ban on glyphosate was due to the influence of the powerful company that sells the chemical in the US.

The ban on glyphosate would affect the company’s exports of the chemical to Thailand, Biothai said.

“The reclassification of glyphosate as a hazardous substance will possibly affect the export of certain farm products from the US to Thailand,” Biothai said.

Soybeans, corn and several other farm products in the US have been found to be contaminated with glyphosate, Biothai said. This prompted the US government to announce it was raising the maximum residue levels (MRL) of glyphosate allowed in these products, to ensure that they could still be sold legally.

Referring to the letter sent to the Thai government, Biothai said Thailand’s ban on the chemical would lead to the US suspending the export of certain farm products to Thailand worth around 51 billion baht per year.

Thailand currently imports about 73.2 billion baht of US agricultural produce each year, Biothai said.

Glyphosate was developed by US giant agribusiness Monsanto and is sold under the brandname Roundup.

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