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Panel to hear claims on agrichemicals

Aug 22. 2018
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Activists say it’s a time- buying tactic.

A GOVERNMENT-appointed panel will review information from both sides before deciding how to solve the controversy over the use of three farm chemicals 

The review will be conducted by a sub-panel that was established yesterday, though activists have voiced concerns that efforts to stop the use of paraquat, glyphosate and chlorpyrifos will go nowhere. 

“I am worried the sub-panel has been set up just to buy time,” Prokchol Ousap, coordinator of Thailand Pesticide Alert Network (Thai-PAN), said yesterday after emerging from a meeting with the panel. 

Appointed by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Suwaphan Tanyuvardhana, the panel convened its first meeting yesterday to find solutions into the controversial use of the three agrichemicals. At the meeting, information on the chemicals’ adverse impacts and data rebutting these reports was presented, so in response, the committee decided to set up a sub-panel to review information from both sides. 

This sub-panel is chaired by the permanent secretary for Science Ministry, as Public Health, Agriculture and Cooperatives and the Industry ministries are seen as parties in conflict. Though the Public Health Ministry called for the three chemicals to be banned last year, the Hazardous Substance Committee (HSC) resolved not to go ahead with the ban partly because the other two ministries had not firmly backed the decision. 

Assoc Professor Puangrat Kajitvichyanukul, chief of the Centre of Excellence on Environmental Research and Innovation at Naresuan University and key researcher on the chemicals’ impacts in Nong Bua Lamphu province, said an Industry Ministry representative had presented findings from an Agriculture Department’s study rebutting her findings. 

“They have always cited different results, which is possible because they used different criteria. They have simply ignored the impacts on farmers,” Puangrat said. “I feel discouraged.” 

Dr Thiravat Hemachudha, who sits on the National Reform Committee on Public Health, said even though yesterday’s meeting had not come up with any clearly positive results, he said it might be necessary to launch a campaign urging farmers to stop or cut down on agrichemicals. “The public should understand that exposure to even small amounts over a long period of time leads to cancer, kidney disease and brain problems,” he said. 

Prokchol said her network’s ally, BioThai Foundation, plans to lodge a complaint against the HSC with the Central Adminis-trative Court in two weeks over HSC’s decision to just restrict the use of chemicals – rather than banning them. 

The Agriculture Department, which was assigned to introduce measures for restricted use in two months, has already missed the deadline. 

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