Credit: BioThai

Ban on hazardous farm chemicals finalised but caution remains

The National Hazardous Substances Committee has maintained its stance to ban two hazardous farm chemicals in its latest meeting, but anti-hazardous farm chemicals groups remain cautious, given the cour case is still ongoing

Representatives of sustainable farming and anti-toxic farm chemicals organisations remain cautious about the latest resolution by the National Hazardous Substances Committee, which has maintained the ban on two hazardous farm chemicals, citing the ongoing court complaint that could overturn the resolution.

The committee, chaired by Industry Minister Suriya Junrungreangkit, has met for the second time this year to consider the issue, following the recent petitions by farm groups, which asked for reconsideration of the ban.

The ban on herbicide Paraquat and pesticide Chlorpyrifos became in effect from June 1 this year following the committee’s resolution in April 30, which confirmed its resolution last year to ban the two chemicals along with limited uses on another herbicide Glyphosate.

Following the April resolution, the Industry Ministry then issued the ministry’s announcement concerning hazardous substances list (6) to list the two chemicals as hazardous substances Type 4, meaning there must not be imports and exports of the chemicals, trades and distributions as well as possessions in the country, literally meaning they are banned for trades and uses here.

Those found having violated the announcement could face a jail term up to 10 year and/or a fine up to one million baht.

Under the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry, which enforces the announcement, products in the markets must be returned to producers or distributors by the end of this month, before being processed further for demolition by early next year. It’s estimated by the ministry that around over 20,000 tons of the chemicals has remained in the markets and farm households.

The issue has been in heated debates as farm groups who rely on the chemicals claim they have not yet had any substitutes and been affected by the resolution.

They along with Syngenta Crop Protection Company, which produces Paraquat, have recently filed a complaint to the Administrative Court, asking it to revoke the committee’s ban, while filing a petition to the committee to reconsider the issue.

According to the latest resolution yesterday, the committee,20:4, voted against the revocation of the ban, citing the ban was just freshly imposed and in effect on June 1, while the court case is still with the Administrative Court.

Mr. Suriya himself said during the press conference that the issue raised was the same of that already considered in the last meeting in April. In addition, there are sufficient reasons to back up the committee’s decisions since the last meeting that the chemicals are hazardous to people’s health, while many countries have also banned them already.

“At this point, this is final,” he said.

The caution

BioThai Foundation, one of over 600 sustainable farming and anti-farm chemicals groups, on the other hand, has expressed the groups’ caution, saying it was too early to say this is the end of the issue and of the two banned chemicals.

The foundation cited the court case, under which the giant chemical company has filed a complaint to the court along with some farm groups, saying the fight is still ongoing and it may take time before being wrapped by the court.

And if concern agencies did not take a serious defense, the case could be overturned, and the chemicals could be back to the markets, BioThai pointed in its post on Facebook after the resoultion.

The groups have filed a petition to the court recently, asking for its permission to take part in the case.

According to the court official, such the third party could take part in an ongoing court case upon the court’s request, or they can petition to the court to consider and allow them to take part in a case, given their legal involvement, mostly as another affected entities.

But this is up to the court’s consideration, the official noted.

Questionable materials

The Weed Science Society of Thailand, meanwhile, also posted on its Facebook, explaining the reasons why the society along with some farm groups had decided to file the petition to the committee for the reconsideration of the ban.

Dr. Chanya Maneechote, the society’s Chairwoman, revealed the groups’ reasons as interviewed by Thai PBS that the groups asked the committee to set up a panel to review facts and evidence which were used to back up its resolutions against the chemicals, citing they are questionable.

Second, the groups wished the committee to postpone the ban to June 2021, as this would be in line with the deadline given to importers of products under chemicals limits set for farm goods imports, or the CODEX standard.

The groups questioned about the materials used in the committee’s meetings. They said if they are proved to be scientifically correct, they would agree with the ban. But if those are found not to be substantiated, they viewed that they should not be used for the committee’s considerations as this would set a false standard for other chemicals in the future.

To ban or not to ban hazardous farm chemicals here is a heated issue, highly demanding facts and proofs from both sides over the past few years as the approach is still a subject of debates whether it should be part of the mechanisms to help move the country towards food safety, one of the prime farm policies aimed for ages.

How the country’s road to food safty should be like will be discussed at Dialogue Forum 6:  A Ban on Toxic Farm Chemicals: Thailand’s long road to food safety and the “(safe) Kitchen of the World” tomorrow.

See more@ Dialogue Forum 6: A Ban on Toxic Farm Chemicals: Thailand’s long road to food safety and the “(safe) Kitchen of the World”