Paraquat-led farm chemical ban a hit
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Paraquat-led farm chemical ban a hit

A farmer sprays a rice field with chemicals in Ayutthaya. (Photo: Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
A farmer sprays a rice field with chemicals in Ayutthaya. (Photo: Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

Positive signs are emerging that Thailand's food safety protocols are improving after its efforts to ban harmful herbicides and pesticides, paraquat and chlorpyrifos, and limit the use of glyphosate proved a success, a seminar was told.

Fewer people are being treated for symptoms related to their use and misuse, the weekend seminar, "A Decade for Driving to Food Safety", was told.

Prokchon Usap, coordinator of the Thai Pesticide Alert Network (Thai-Pan), said the country made a big step forward when the government took action, which saw the number of agrochemical imports fall from 128 million kilogrammes in 2017 to 113 million kilogrammes in 2022.

Meanwhile, the number of patients with conditions related to agrochemical use was down from 22.75 cases per 100,000 of population in 2017 to 8.72 per 100,000 population in 2023, or 2.6 times lower.

In 2019, the Department of Medical Sciences said it found 26.6% of research samples were contaminated with hazardous chemicals.

However, zero contamination was detected in samples after the ban, she said.

Thai-Pan also believed the amount of public health expenditure related to agrichemical-led diseases is expected to fall by over 48 billion baht in coming years.

Ms Prokchon added Thai-Pan monitored four types of agrochemical use, namely carbonate, organophosphate, organochlorine and pyrethroids, in exported fruit and vegetables from 2012 to 2022.

It found the contamination levels had already fallen from 50% to 20% and the network and its partners will work further for a total ban of these four agrichemicals.

She also expressed appreciation for a stronger lab capacity now able to test for around 500 chemicals.

"We are happy with the country's effort to elevate food safety standards, as less chemical contamination is being found in samples of fruit and vegetables. While 60% were tainted in 2016, that number had dropped to 51% in 2022.

"It proves we are now on the right track to dealing with the chemical at its source," she said.

At the conclusion of the discussion, Thai-Pan and its partners agreed that cooperation from all stakeholders can create a nationwide movement to achieve food safety, with even less agrochemical use by farmers on the horizon.

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