EARTH Thailand

Activists cry foul over pesticide ban 'failure'

Bangkok Post 20 September 2017  

DOA under fire for not following panel order

Consumer advocates called on the prime minister Tuesday to ban the use of two hazardous agricultural chemicals after the Department of Agriculture (DOA) passed the buck to the Industry Ministry, saying the department had no expertise in public health.

In Bangkok, Boonyuen Siritham, chairman of the Consumer Protection Confederation, lodged a petition Tuesday with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha at the government's complaint centre, urging it to order the DOA to ban two popular grass-and-pest killing chemicals, Paraquat and Chlorpyrifos, and limit the use of glyphosate, another hazardous weed-killer.

The move comes after a committee overseeing hazardous herbicides and pesticides in April agreed to bar the use of Paraquat and Chlorpyrifos as both chemicals have long-term effects on the health of farmers and consumers.

The committee was also chaired by the public health minister.

DOA director-general Suwit Chaikiattiyos last week announced the issue would be dealt with by the Industry Ministry, claiming the department and the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry, its parent agency, had no specialists in this field.

Mr Boonyuen said the federation believed the Industry Ministry was not qualified to deal with the issue either, adding the delay in implementing the ban in accordance with the committee resolution showed the government was failing to protect consumers.

"The Ministry of Public Health, the DOA and the Agriculture Ministry had a say in April's resolution. Therefore, there is no reason for the DOA to delay implementation of the ban as it greatly affects public health," Mr Boonyuen said.

According to Petch Kaewkla, assistant secretary of the Foundation for Consumers, Paraquat is a highly toxic substance with no antidote or functional cure.

The chemical can harm the nervous system and cause Parkinson's disease, he said.

The substance can enter the human body through skin absorption.

Food and drug expert Monruedee Pho-in, of the Independent Committee for Consumer Protection, said Paraquat is banned in 48 countries including Switzerland, a country that produces the substance, as well as China, South Korea, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

Meanwhile, similar petitions were also lodged by farmers and members of agricultural civic networks in Yasothon and Buri Ram.

In Yasothon, a petition was accepted by provincial governor Boontham Lertsukekasem at City Hall in Muang district.

The groups called on various agencies, particularly the Agriculture and Industry ministries, to ban Paraquat and Chlorpyrifos, the latter they said being a pesticide that affects the development of the brain in infants.

The networks also urged the government to eliminate glyphosate, a substance that causes cancer, according to a study conducted by the Chulabhorn Research Institute that was backed up by the World Health Organisation.

Boonthong Wisetchart, 58, kamnan of tambon Non Puey and who led the groups, said the DOA's washing its hands of the affair was a means of delaying the committee ban to benefit private firms selling the chemicals.