Minister backs pesticide ban

Minister backs pesticide ban

Wiwat wants total, immediate end to use

Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Wiwat Salyakamthorn says all three farm chemicals should be banned immediately, but has set up a committee to study the issue.
Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Wiwat Salyakamthorn says all three farm chemicals should be banned immediately, but has set up a committee to study the issue.

Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Wiwat Salyakamthorn has thrown his support behind a total ban on three hazardous herbicides -- paraquat, glyphosate and chlorpyrifos.

Mr Wiwat, also a renowned farm scholar who has championed a shift away from conventional farming towards more sustainable production, reiterated Tuesday his firm stance against the use of the three farm chemicals, saying they must be banned totally and immediately.

Toxic farm chemicals have become a serious national threat to public health and the environment, particularly paraquat, the popular weed killer better known under its trade name Gramoxone, he said.

Banned in several dozen countries for being a health hazard, these farm chemicals remain popular in Thailand as they make life easier for farmers who need to harvest their crops.

Mr Wiwat said he has set up a committee to study the impact of these chemical substances on people's health and the environment.

A conclusion will be forwarded to the special committee overseeing the use of chemical substances in agriculture headed by Prime Minister's Office Minister Suwaphan Tanyuvardhana.

Formed in July at the behest of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, the special committee has been tasked with gleaning more information on the issue and recommending solutions after consumer groups and environmental activists filed a complaint against the decision to allow these three weedkillers to be used.

The special committee is expected to forward its final results to the prime minister next month.

Mr Wiwat also said the government intends to push for organic farming to be introduced on 5 million rai of farmland to produce crops which are free of hazardous chemicals for public consumption.

On May 23, the Hazardous Substance Committee allowed the continued use of the three toxic pesticides despite mounting concerns about their health impact.

The committee members, including representatives from the Public Health, Industry and Agriculture ministries, as well as invited experts, voted to allow the continued use of paraquat, glyphosate and chlorpyrifos but under tightened regulations.

The committee said there were insufficient studies confirming they were health hazards.

Widely used by Thai farmers, paraquat has reportedly been banned in more than 30 countries, including Vietnam, Laos and recently China, a major paraquat exporter.

Some 17 countries limit the use of all three chemicals.

The three pesticides are commonly used by farmers because they are inexpensive and produce quick results.

However, they could have a severely adverse impact on the health of farmers and consumers as well as hurt the environment in the long run, experts have said.

Thiravat Hemachudha, a professor of neurology at Chulalongkorn University's faculty of medicine, has joined a growing crusade to ban the use of toxic chemicals in farming.

Dr Thiravat said long-term pesticide exposure has been linked to the development of Parkinson's disease; asthma; depression and anxiety; cancer, including leukaemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma; and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder.

Thailand's paraquat imports rose to 44,501 tonnes last year, up from 31,525 and 30,441 tonnes in 2016 and 2015 respectively due to fears a ban might be imposed on the herbicide.

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