Farmers renew chemical ban fight

Farmers renew chemical ban fight

No 'ideal substitute at hand' for paraquat

Farmers show pictures of their farms before asking the Central Administrative Court for an injunction that will allow them to continue using agro-chemicals currently banned by the authorities. (Photo by Pornprom Satrabhaya)
Farmers show pictures of their farms before asking the Central Administrative Court for an injunction that will allow them to continue using agro-chemicals currently banned by the authorities. (Photo by Pornprom Satrabhaya)

A group of farmers on Thursday filed a petition with the Central Administrative Court, seeking an injunction to allow the use of agrochemicals banned by the National Hazardous Substances Committee (NHSC), citing the need for the substances to deal with weeds during the planting season.

This was the group's second attempt to seek the court's protection. Last month the court rejected the group's petition, saying the ban had yet to take effect.

NHSC issued a resolution banning the use of paraquat and chlorpyrifos in agriculture which went into effect on June 1.

Sukan Sangwanna, secretary-general of the Safe Farming Confederation and one of 11 plaintiffs, said farmers are suffering because the ban on paraquat use caused a weed infestation.

He said the group has been unable to find an effective agrochemical to replace paraquat and chlorpyrifos.

"We don't mind paying more money to use a new [agrochemical] if it is as good as paraquat," Mr Sukan said. "But there are none to replace it. This has been confirmed by the Department of Agriculture who said there was no substitute for paraquat."

He explained that farmers who want to plant single crops, such as maize, cassava, palm and rubber, on a large scale, cannot use heavy machinery to control weed infestations because the soil gets soft from rainfall.

The use of glufosinate -- a suggested substitute -- would damage the crops, Mr Sukan said. If the ban continues, cassava yield could be reduced by up to 80%, while the production of sugar cane could decrease by 50% and maize by 40%, Mr Sukan said.

Some farmers are unhappy with the NHSC resolution categorising paraquat and chlorpyrifos as hazardous chemicals. It did so because it believes these chemicals have harmful effects on people's health and the environment.

They said the decision to ban the substances was done based on poor scientific information, highlighted in the petition submitted to the court in May.

The group estimated the ban will cost the economy 1.7 trillion baht and 12 million farmers will be affected.

According to the Department of Agriculture, farmers are required to return what's left of the banned chemicals to shops within 90 days.

The shops are given 120 to collect them all. Chemical manufacturers will pick them up within 270 days and destroy them.

After, any person found guilty of possessing the banned substances could be jailed for up to 10 years and be fined up to one million baht.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Public Health is planning to amend regulations to stop the import of crops with traces of paraquat and chlorpyrifos in June next year. Imported beans and wheat are often contaminated by residue from the two chemicals.

The ministry suggested that importers should find other producers who can supply goods meant for import with zero residue.

Mr Sukan said these acts are a double standard, adding farmers should be allowed to use the banned chemicals until next year.

He said his group will keep a close eye on the ministry so it can be sued for negligence if any traces of banned agrochemicals are found on imported crops.


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