Minister defends ban on dangerous agrochemicals

Minister defends ban on dangerous agrochemicals

Denounces ministry bid to overturn it

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, centre, announces his stance on Monday. (Photo: Pornprom Satrabhaya)
Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, centre, announces his stance on Monday. (Photo: Pornprom Satrabhaya)

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul on Monday declared his stance against a fresh attempt by the Agriculture Ministry to reverse the National Hazardous Substances Committee's (NHSC) decision to ban the use of paraquat and chlorpyrifos in agriculture.

Mr Anutin hosted a press conference on Monday to denounce the decision by Agriculture Minister Chalermchai Sri-on to request the committee to consider revising its previous decision to ban the two farm chemicals.

Mr Anutin said that as a minister, he is responsible for the health of the general public, affirming his stance against any attempt to reverse the ban.

There is clear evidence to support and maintain the ban, he said, noting it includes the growing number of people made sick by the use of the two chemicals in the farming sector.

"Medical personnel are urging anyone who is attempting to pressure the NHSC to either postpone or terminate the ban on the two chemicals to better stop," the minister said. "Please think about the public's health, which is something that can never be replaced if ruined."

Mr Anutin said he understood the economic impacts of the ban. However, public safety cannot be compromised, he said.

He added all 11 departments and organisations under the ministry are united in their support for the ban to be kept intact. Because the ministry has only two voices in the NHSC, which comprises 27 members, they would not win if they could not reach a consensus with other members.

The NHSC had previously changed its stance on the ban multiple times over the past few months due to what could be external pressure, Mr Anutin noted.

He then encouraged the public to join with the Public Health Ministry to fight against a reversal of the ban on the two agrochemicals.

Dr Suwannachai Wattanayingcharoenchai, director-general of the Department of Disease Control, said 41,941 people suffered from chemical poisonings from 2015 to last year. The average number of people getting sick has fallen since the ministry launched an awareness campaign about the ban last year.

Mae Hong Son, Nakhon Ratchasima, Lampang, Nong Bua Lamphu and Nakhon Si Thammarat are the top five provinces with the heaviest use of farm chemicals.

The latest survey by the department showed that 677,522 of 2.6 million families apply hazardous chemicals at their farms, and many of them have begun to show signs of poisoning.

Saree Aungsomwang, secretary-general of the Foundation for Consumers, said the attempt to reverse the ban is a setback to public trust on the Agriculture Ministry. She said Mr Chalermchai should remember that his Democrat Party promised voters it would support the ban.

Alongkorn Ponlaboot, adviser to the secretary-general, came to his defence, saying Mr Chalermchai only forwarded a petition to the NHSC to have the ban reversed, a request made by a group of farmers.

Mr Chalermchai's action does not show whether he is for or against the banning of the two chemicals, said Mr Alongkorn.

Dr Paisarn Dunkum, secretary-general of the Food and Drug Administration, said his agency does not support the use of farm chemicals.

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