EARTH Thailand

Panel stirs anger over 'toxic' vote

Bangkok Post 24 May 2018 | Anchalee Kongrut

Campaigners have vowed to go to the Administrative Court after Wednesday's ruling by the Hazardous Substance Committee to allow the continued use of three toxic pesticides despite mounting concerns about their health impact.

The committee members, including representatives from the Public Health, Industry and Agriculture ministries, as well as invited experts, voted Wednesday to allow the continued use of paraquat, glyphosate and chlorpyrifos but under tightened regulations.

The committee said there were insufficient studies confirming they were health hazards.

Widely used by Thai farmers, paraquat has reportedly been banned in more than 30 countries, including Vietnam, Laos and recently China, a major paraquat exporter.

Some 17 countries limit the use of all three chemicals.

Witoon Lienchamroon, head of Biothai, a conservation group, said consumer groups would ask the Administrative Court to overturn the committee's decision.

Mr Witoon said the committee vote on Wednesday might have violated Section 12 of the Hazardous Substance Act 1992. The section prevents members with conflicts of interest from voting.

Consumer groups had reportedly accused three committee members of having links to groups that support the use of the herbicides.

"I am not surprised by the committee's decision. Its membership was lopsided and dominated by officials and experts advocating continued use. They were not open to the fact that these chemical have been banned in many countries and did not believe reports on their health impacts," Mr Witoon told the Bangkok Post by phone.

Health expert, Assc Prof Jiraporn Limpanond, from Chulalongkorn's Faculty of Pharmacy and a committee member issued a statement Wednesday saying several of the members accused of having a conflict of interest did not abstain from voting. Ms Jiraporn supported a ban.

Prokchon Ousat, coordinator of the Pesticide Alert Network, said representatives from 369 associations that support banning the three pesticides would protest at Government House to pressure the government to reverse the decision.

In addition, the consumer network would launch a countrywide public campaign calling on consumers to stop patronizing products or companies connected to the pesticides and herbicides.

The public campaign to ban these three chemicals started since last year when the Ministry of Public Health recommended they be banned.

Several studies here have found that using them have had a negative effect on the health of Thai farmers.

A study at Chulalongkorn University, found women exposed to glyphosate were at risk of breast cancer and were prone to miscarriages.