Anutin backs spray ban

Anutin backs spray ban

Govt calls to scrap weed killers mount

Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister, Anutin Charnvirakul, on Thursday voiced his strong support for a ban on toxic herbicides paraquat, glyphosate, and chlorpyrifos -- a stance shared by the Agriculture and Cooperatives and Industry ministries.

Mr Anutin expressed his backing for the ban after Thursday's meeting of the committee responsible for controlling occupational and environmental diseases.

The committee, which was set up under the new law governing the control of these diseases, came into effect on Thursday and comes as government support for a ban at ministry level is building.

The law is aimed at boosting protection and welfare for formal and non-formal workers.

When asked if the new law covers the use of toxic chemicals in the agricultural sector, Mr Anutin said the law is designed to prevent dangers from all kinds of harmful farming chemicals, including paraquat, glyphosate and chlorpyrifos.

Mr Anutin insisted the ministries disapprove of the use of the three chemicals and want to push for an immediate ban on their use.

"The Public Health Ministry has rejected the use of the chemicals all along. Society rejects them. So does the deputy agriculture minister. I also asked the industry minister, and he also said 'No'," Mr Anutin said.

"When the three ministries have disapproved [of their use], how can anyone say otherwise? For any committee members who disagree with the ban, they are probably not from the Public Health Ministry. If so, this means they fail to comply with the ministry's policy. They'll be dealt with accordingly," the minister said.

The National Hazardous Substances Committee (NHSC) has come under growing pressure to ban the three toxic herbicides.

However, when the NHSC met on Wednesday to consider proposals for alternatives to the toxic farm chemicals, it decided that a four-party committee will be set up by the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry to find a solution within 60 days -- a decision which was criticised as a retrograde step.

Apichin Jotikasthira, deputy permanent secretary for industry who also chairs the NHSC, said after the meeting that the NHSC has acknowledged concerns about the use of the chemicals, which need to be properly managed under the 1992 Hazardous Substances Act.

Mr Apichin said the committee had recently received a letter from the permanent secretary of the Prime Minister's Office, asking it to deal with the problem.

The letter, dated Sept 10, said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha believed the matter is a public health concern and as such, should be discussed by state agencies, importers, farmers and consumers to find a solution, Mr Apichin said. He added the four-party panel has 60 days to submit a solution to the NHSC.

However, Witoon Lianchamroon, director of BioThai Foundation, questioned the NHSC's decision to submit the matter to a panel as it has full authority to deal with the matter.

Mr Witoon also said academics are not represented on the panel.

Ahead of the NHSC meeting on Tuesday, Gen Prayut said he expected to see clarity over the proposed ban on the toxic herbicides when the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry tabled its study to the NHSC for consideration at the meeting.

When asked about Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Mananya Thaiset's complaint about a lack of cooperation from state agencies, Gen Prayut said the issue should be handled in a transparent manner.

Ms Mananya, who along with Mr Anutin has pledged to push for the ban, voiced her frustration over a lack of cooperation from authorities when she demanded to know details about stockpiles of the hazardous chemicals for the ministry's report on the proposed ban.

Ms Mananya said on Tuesday she agreed with calls for the NHSC to hold an open ballot on the proposed ban, but that would depend on existing regulations and other restrictions.

"Those who want to continue using these chemicals must justify their reasons to the public," she said.

It was reported that the NHSC has held a secret vote on the proposed ban every time the issue has come up. In the previous one, the committee voted 16:5 in favour of the chemicals.


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