Credit: BioThai

Backgrounder: Ban on toxic farm chemicals close to an end

PM has expressed his stance on the ban to the public, citing his support on the reduction and abolishment of the chemical uses.

The week or so sees the twists and turns of the ban attempt on three toxic farm chemicals_Paraquat, Glyphosate, and Chlorpyrifos found hazardous to the environment and public health, as concerned parties have both lockhorned and then switched his or her stances.

Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha has just made things clearer after he announced his stance on the issue, though indirectly.

After the weekly Cabinet briefings, Gen Prayut said he had made his stance on the issue since the previous government, citing his continued support on the reduction and abolishment of the chemical uses.

This government, he said, has been proceeding with that directive and the Hazardous Substances Control Committee has been working to finish it.

It’s the first time that the premier has expressed his stance on the issue, raising public expectations that it is close to an end and it would eventually end with the ban, after the issue has dragged on for more than two years due to its high controversy with profits of multi-national chemical firms and public health and environmental safety at stake.

The three chemicals are found to have effects on human’s nervous system and reproduction, causing critical diseases like Parkinson, cancers, and others.

Following a series of campaigns over the past two years by the anti-toxic farm chemicals network of nearly 700 alternative farming and public health advocacy organisations, the ministers concerning the issue have apparently bowed to the pressure. 

The first is the Public Health Ministry which had recieved acdemic information in regard to the hazardous levels against public health of those three farm chemicals. It decided on the ban last year, and the directive has been carried on through its new minister Anutin Charnvirakul, leader of the government coalition Bhumjai Thai party.

Then all eyes turned to the Agriculture Ministry where upto four senior officials sit on the 29-member Hazardous Substances Control Committee, and the fact that it is a regulating body of the chemical uses.

Deputy Agriculture Minister Mananya Thaiset of the same Bhumjai Thai seems to make clear on her stance in the first place, expressing her support to the ban on the chemicals and trying to push the issue forward.

However, that is not the case of her Minister, Chalermchai Sri-on from the Democrats, who had not made clear on his stance, saying only that he did not support the continued uses of the chemicals.

But after being threantened with the rally at his party, Chalermchai, in talks with his leader, decided on his stance just last week, saying he was ready to ban the chemicals if the committee said so, and calling on the committee’s voting on the issue to be open and transparent.

Acquiring the signal from her minister, the Deputy Agriculture  Minister last week called for the meeting of the four parties consisting of representatives of the government, chemical importers, farmers, and consumers to meet and try to reach a consensus over the issue, as required in the previous meeting of the  Hazardous Substances Control Committee.  

The meeting resolved to ban the chemicals from December 1 onwards, and Mananya said she has forewarded to her minister to sign on already.

Chalermchai, however, declined to say still whether he has signed it up to acknowledge the resolution. But before he did, the Prime Minister himself just did it for him at the weekly Cabinet briefing, clarifying the situation how these three toxic chemicals would finish.

The Hazardous Substances Control Committee is scheduled to convene next week to decide on the fate of these three chemicals_with all eyes turning on it now.