Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Ban on paraquat lifted for study

KUALA LUMPUR: The ban on the herbicide paraquat will be temporarily lifted from Nov 1, to allow a comprehensive study on its many uses.

The Pesticide Control Division under the then Agriculture Ministry banned the weedkiller for its hazardous effect on health in August 2002.

The decision to temporarily lift the ban by the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry now was made following appeals from farmers and manufacturers to look at the greater uses of the herbicide.

“We want to do an extensive study on paraquat, its harmful effects and positive aspects, before the set date for its total ban in November next year,” Pesticide Control Division director Nursiah Tajul Arus told The Star.

Although the ban was imposed in August 2002, paraquat products such as Syngenta's Gramoxone, which were previously registered for use, were being phased out in stages by November 2007.

“If it is proven that paraquat’s usefulness outweighs its negative impact, we may have to review its usage.

“The Agriculture Department wants to review paraquat’s effectiveness on various plants and cash crops,” she added.

To facilitate the study, the Pesticides Board is now allowing registration of paraquat for all crops.

Federation of Malaysian Conumers Association consultant for health and environment Josie Fernandez said: “It is surprising that the Government is reconsidering the ban on the one of the most hazardous poisons in the world – and it has no antidote.

“Paraquat causes a litany of problems to plantation workers and farmers including severe illness and death.

“The Government should not compromise on the safety and health of poor workers.”

Fernandez said some corporations in Europe had declared that they would not import palm oil from nations that use paraquat in plantations as the palm oil might carry traces of the poison.

A study by the National Poison Centre in 2002 showed that women using paraquat suffered nosebleeds, tearing of the eyes, contact dermatitis, skin irritation and sores, nail discolouration, dropping of the nails and abdominal ulcerations.

Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific executive director Sarojeni V. Rengam said: “It is lamentable that the Government has taken a step back on this dangerous chemical.

“It has come to our attention that the industry has been putting pressure on the authorities to repeal the ban.”

“The total ban should have taken effect in 2005, but a phase out period has been extended till 2007 after appeals by the industry,” she said.

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