Friday, September 28, 2007

China to increase inspection of agricultural products and crack down on illegal pesticides

BEIJING (AP): China said Monday it had boosted inspections of agriculture products nationwide in a bid to cut the use of banned pesticides and the overuse of animal feed additives and fertilizers.
Ten people have been arrested and almost 100 offending companies shut down since August, Vice Minister of Agriculture Gao Hongbin said.
Gao said the ministry was "targeting 100 percent surveillance of large and medium-sized cities'' in the hunt for illegal pesticides and feed additives.
China's food chain is tainted at many levels by the overuse of pesticides and additives.
While the problem has been common in China for years, it aroused international concern this year because of complaints about tainted Chinese exports, such as farmed fish in which U.S. and European authorities have found high doses of a carcinogenic antibiotic.
Gao said authorities were also "targeting the illegal production, sale and application of five types of pesticides.''
He said the ministry was attaching great importance to agricultural inspections.
There will also be random checks for pesticide residue in agriculture products.
Gao said that since the inspection program was launched last month 10 people have been arrested and 95 companies without appropriate licenses have been shut while the business licenses of another six companies were revoked.

Sarawak upset over veggie ban

MIRI: The ban imposed by Brunei on vegetables from Sarawak has badly affected the income of farmers and tarnished the image of the state’s agriculture sector, said Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan Hong Nam.
He said the state government was “very upset” over the move and would conduct a thorough investigation to see if the ban was warranted.
“The ban was imposed supposedly because our vegetables contained too much pesticides. However, as far as I know, Sarawak has already drastically reduced the use of pesticides and chemicals in most of our farms,” he said when contacted yesterday.
Dr Chan is also State Agriculture Modernisation Minister and State Industrial Development Minister.
Brunei imposed a ban three weeks ago on commercially grown vegetables from Malaysia, the bulk of which comes from Sarawak, claiming that the vegetables contained dangerously high amount of pesticides.
Dr Chan said Sarawak was also exporting vegetables to other countries like Japan and Hong Kong.
“So it is obvious the quality of our vegetables are in tune with international health standards. It cannot be that our standard is so different from Brunei,” he said.
Asked about the loss of income, he said it was “very big”.
Previous statistics obtained from vegetable growers in Miri showed that at least RM30mil worth of greens crossed the border into Brunei from Miri district alone every year.
“I want a full report from the relevant agriculture agencies and also from the health department to find out the actual situation,” he said.
This is not the first time that Brunei had imposed such ban of greens from Sarawak.
Two years ago, a similar ban was also imposed that lasted many months before it was lifted.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

FISHY DEATHS-Police believe it's an inside job

Wednesday September 26, 2007
LANGKAWI: In what is believed to be an inside job, Langkawi Underwater World has offered a RM10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for poisoning about 600 fish.
Langkawi OCPD Supt Mohd Ali Jamaludin urged those with information to assist the police to bring the culprits to book as soon as possible.
“We believe the poisoning was done by insiders. It was well planned.
“We suspect two or more people were involved,” he said, adding that the crime had affected Langkawi’s highly-valued tourism product.
It was reported that about 600 fish worth hundreds of thousands of ringgit were found dead in two large tanks and five smaller tanks of the old wing of UWL on Monday.
Among the valuable fish that died were sharks including the white tip, black tip, leopard and nurse, and variety of stingrays including the rare cownose ray.
“The fish started dying en masse at about 6.40pm just as the lights were switched off,” he said when contacted on Wednesday.
Police have ruled out outsiders’ involvement because the inlets to the tanks were accessible only to UWL staff.
Supt Mohd Ali also noted several weaknesses in the security system at the old wing including absence of CCTV and free accessibility to all personnel.
He said police had taken water and carcass samples for analysis and the results would be known within a week.
“The chemical used could be petroleum,” he said.
The case is being investigated under Section 429 of the Penal Code for treason. If found guilty the offender is liable to a minimum fine of RM25,000 and or jailed up to five years.

Utara: Paya bakau musnah

Oleh Mohd Feroz Abu Bakar

Hutan Simpan Tanjung Burung terima kesan kegiatan keringkan air laut untuk projek komersial

PANTAI REMIS: Kawasan hutan paya bakau seluas kira-kira 70 hektar di Hutan Simpan Tanjung Burung dekat sini, musnah sepenuhnya berikutan tindakan pihak tidak bertanggungjawab menggali parit bagi mengeringkan air laut. Kerja pengeringan air laut itu bermula kira-kira dua tahun lalu dipercayai untuk memberi laluan kepada projek rumah kediaman dan bangunan komersial.

Persatuan Alam Sekitar Perak mendapati pokok bakau dengan ketinggian kira-kira 10 meter di kawasan itu yang berusia sekurang-kurangnya 20 tahun mati secara semula jadi kerana penyejatan air dalam tanah. Setiausaha Kehormat persatuan itu, Meor Razak Abdul Rahman, berkata kemusnahan pokok bakau itu turut merosakkan rantaian makanan untuk burung tepi pantai dan sumber makanan ikan pinggir laut berhampiran Kampung Sungai Batu. "Bekas paya bakau yang kering-kontang itu kini ditumbuhi rumput dan pokok piai yang tidak memberi sumbangan kepada rantaian makanan untuk haiwan terutama ikan tepi pantai," katanya ketika ditemui di sini, semalam.

Hutan Simpan Tanjung Burung adalah hutan simpan kekal seluas lebih 900 hektar sepanjang pantai antara Manjung dengan Changkat Jering. Kawasan paya bakau itu bersempadan dengan Hutan Simpan Segari Melintang di selatan dengan Hutan Simpan Larut-Matang di utara.

Berita Harian di Hutan Simpan Tanjung Burung mendapati kawasan paya bakau yang dikeringkan itu terletak tidak sampai satu kilometer dari pekan Pantai Remis. Berdasarkan peta topografi Jabatan Perhutanan, kawasan yang dikeringkan itu adalah blok 118 yang ditandakan oleh jabatan berkenaan, bersempadan dengan Kampung Sungai Batu yang menempatkan jeti nelayan. Meor Razak berkata, penduduk kampung berkenaan menerima kesan langsung ketika tragedi tsunami dengan semua bot dan sampan mereka terbalik atau ditolak ke darat kerana ombak kuat. "Ketika itu, hutan bakau masih wujud berhampiran kampung mereka dan mampu menjadi penampan kepada gelombang air laut yang kuat. "Tetapi, sekarang semua pokok bakau berdekatan Kampung Sungai Batu sudah mati dan tiada apa yang mampu menjadi penampan jika berlaku tsunami sekali lagi," katanya. Meor Razak berkata, kemusnahan pokok bakau berhampiran Kampung Sungai Batu itu dikhuatiri akan turut menjejaskan sistem ekologi di Hutan Simpan Segari Melintang di selatan Hutan Simpan Tanjung Burung.

Our right to convert forests


NEW YORK: Malaysia has maintained its right to convert forests to other land uses such as agriculture although it acknowledges that deforestation may lead to climate change.
Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar told a special meeting of Tropical Rainforest Countries’ Leaders here on Monday: “It is to our own interest to conserve and manage our forest resources on a sustainable basis.”

He said Malaysia, just like other developing countries, should not be denied the right to development particularly to fulfil its obligation to eradicate poverty.

He added that Malaysia was blessed with relatively large tracts of natural tropical forests, which covered almost 60% of its total land area.

He stressed that any approach to resolve the problem of climate change must consider the differences between developed and developing countries.

“Developed countries have already reached a stage in their economic development where they should reduce emission of greenhouse gases,” he said.

At a separate meeting on climate change, Syed Hamid called on developed nations to take the lead on finance and economics in fighting climate change.

“Although much has been said about the need for more financing, the sad fact is that this has not been forthcoming.

“Many of the funds set up for these purposes come with conditions that sometimes render it impossible for some developing countries to receive any financing in their struggle to adapt to climate change.”

Speaking to Malaysian journalists later, Syed Hamid said there was consensus that climate change problems must be dealt with at a multilateral level and within the ambit of the United Nations.

He also said that Asean must have a uniform policy and act collectively to protect its natural resources.

Malaysia, he added, was working with Brunei and Indonesia to protect the heart of Borneo.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Alternative Methods Proposed To Detect Pesticides And Antibiotics In Water And Natural Food

Alternative Methods Proposed To Detect Pesticides And Antibiotics In Water And Natural Food

Science Daily Water or food of natural origins (from plants or animals) that we consume on a daily basis can contain unwanted ‘supplies’ for our organism, such as pesticides or antibiotics.

Research forms part of several projects financed by the Spanish National Institute for Agrarian and Alimentary Research (INIA) and the Ministry of Education and Science, in collaboration with the company Puleva Biotech.

A doctoral thesis carried out by Jorge Juan Soto Chinchilla, from the Department of Analytical Chemistry at the University of Granada (Universidad de Granada), and directed by professors Ana María García Campaña and Laura Gámiz Gracia, proposes new analysis methods for the detection of pesticide residue (carbamates) and antibiotic residue (sulfonamides) in water, plant foods and food of animal origin (milk and meats from varied sources). These new methods constitute a routine analysis alternative to the analysis used until now.

The main goal of the work “New analytical methodologies, under quality criteria, for the determination of pharmaceutical residues in waters and food”, carried out by the research group “Quality in Food, Environmental and Clinical Analytical Chemistry (FQM-302)”, has been to develop new methods to detect residues in food of these contaminants below the Maximum Residue Levels (MRL) established by the European Union, in order to guarantee the quality of the product and permit its distribution and consumption.

Researchers point out, regarding water, that “the interest caused by control of residue levels of pesticides, which can be found in water as a result of treatment of crops with such compounds, is widely known. ”However, concern on detecting pharmaceutical residue, specifically antibiotic, is quite recent. The presence of these contaminants in fresh waters can cause a certain bacterial resistance or allergic reactions in the consuming population.

Innovative techniques

In order to achieve this, the study carried out by the UGR used techniques that have not been much explored in these fields. Cathodoluminiscence detection (CL) connected to Flow Injection Analysis (FIA) and High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPCL), or Capillary Electrophoresis (CE) with UV/Vis detection using an online preconcentration technique in the capillary itself, or detection via Mass Spectometry (MS). MS can also unequivocally identify the analysed compounds. Research has been specifically based on carbamates, a widely used pesticide family, and on sulfonamides, a group of wide-spectrum antibiotics commonly used in medicine and veterinary science.

Researchers point out that methods developed in this work could be applied in the future to routine analysis for this kind of residue control in plant foods and foods of animal origin, in Quality and Alimentary Safety laboratories, or in the detection of such contaminants in waters of varied sources. “These methods definitely constitute interesting alternatives to the already established and less sensitive methods which imply a greater consumption of organic solvents and generate more contaminant residues,” the author of the thesis points out.

FQM-302 research group has been working on the proposal of methods of detecting contaminant residues in foods and in the environment for several years. Currently work is being carried out in different doctoral theses which looks at the study of other pesticide families and their degradation products, as well as the study of other antibiotics such as quinolones and beta-lactams using the methods mentioned above.

Results of this work have been published in the following journals: ‘Analytica Chimica Acta’, ‘Journal of Chromatography’, ‘Trends in Analytical Chemistry’ and ‘Electrophoresis’.

Characteristics of Biopesticides

Characteristics of Biopesticides

Biopesticides are quickly emerging as important tools in reducing pesticide use and risk. Pesticide users have expressed such interest in these pesticides that EPA created a special division called the Biopesticides and Pollution Prevention Division, tospeed up the registration of biopesticides. Biopesticides generally exhibit the following characteristics:
* They have a narrow target range and highly-specific mode of action;
* They are slow acting;
* They suppress (rather than eliminate) pest populations;
* Timing of application is relatively critical;
* There is limited field persistence and shelf life;
* They are often used as part of Integrated Pest Management programs;
* They are generally safer to humans and the environment than conventional pesticides; and,
* They usually present no residue problems.

There are two types of biopesticides, biochemical and microbial. Biochemical pesticides are structurally similar to, and functionally identical to, a naturally occurring counterpart, and have a nontoxic mode of action. An example of a biochemical pesticide includes pheromones. Pheromones are naturally-occurring chemicals that insects use to find mates. Chemically synthesized pheromones can disrupt insect mating by creating confusion during the search for mates, or by attracting insects to traps.

Microbial pesticides are naturally-occurring or genetically altered bacteria, fungi, algae, viruses, or protozoans that suppress pests by either producing a toxin specific to the pest, causing disease, preventing establishment of pest microorganisms through competition, or other modes of action. Bacillus thuringiensis (B.t.) is an example of a microbial pesticide. B.t. is a naturally-occurring soil bacterium that is toxic to the larvae of several species of insects but virtually nontoxic to nontarget organisms. B.t. is applied foliarly, or incorporated into the genetic material or crops, including B.t. corn and B.t. cotton. About 10-14 million acres of B.t. corn will be available for 1998 nationwide. In 1997, growers planted approximately 2 million acres of B.t. cotton. That number could double in 1998.

Monday, September 24, 2007


SRINAGAR (India) - A distraught Shahida Begum drank pesticide a day after her 26-year-old son was killed in crossfire between Indian soldiers and Muslim rebels in disputed Kashmir.
Unable to cope with the trauma of losing her only son to the 15-year-old separatist conflict, the 55-year-old woman tried to kill herself last month but was saved by doctors. She was one of hundreds who try to commit suicide in Kashmir each year.
``My life is no longer worth living after his death,'' she said, in her mud house on the outskirts of Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian Kashmir.
The unrelenting violence in the scenic Himalayan region famous for its pristine hillsides, forested valleys and soaring snow-covered peaks has strained Kashmir's traditionally easy-going society.
Doctors and sociologists say the number of people committing suicide has soared since the start of the revolt, but data is sketchy as the violence has made it difficult to do extensive and long-term surveys.
One study done in 1999 found that almost 2,000 Kashmiris attempted to kill themselves that year alone - and about ten percent of them were successful.
The number of such cases is rising although Kashmir is overwhelmingly Muslim and Islam expressly forbids suicide.
The trend comes against a backdrop of more than 40,000 deaths since 1989 in violence between Indian forces and Muslim rebels, including many civilians caught in the middle.
An average of five cases of attempted suicide were brought to Srinagar's main hospital each day over the past year, said G. Q. Khan, the head of medicine there.
``This is very high compared to one or two cases a day, 15 years ago - before the turmoil. We find most suicides are due to the turmoil,'' said Khan, who headed the 1999 study.
Hospitals estimate around 40 percent of cases are not reported in Kashmir as many people who live in remote and mountainous rural villages choose not to tell the authorities. Attempting suicide is illegal in India and punishable by law.
Khan said swallowing pesticide, used to spray paddy fields, was the most common method of suicide.
Besides violence-induced trauma in Kashmir, unemployment, psychiatric disorders, family feuds and failed love affairs were cited as other causes for suicide attempts.
``The underlying cause is the emotional trauma caused by the violence and mayhem that takes place everyday. People need help,'' said Abinah Nawaz, a psychiatrist.
Gunbattles in villages and towns, landmine blasts, grenade explosions, abductions and revenge killings by militants are regular events in Jammu and Kashmir, India's only Muslim-majority state.
Health experts and sociologists warn that if the violence does not ease, suicides will climb still further in the area, the focus of a peace process between India and Pakistan.
``The entire situation has become so charged, so full of tension; sometimes one just cannot tolerate it. A small quarrel with a father can lead to suicide. Behind all this is the wider context of militancy,'' said Bashir Ahmad Dabla, head of the sociology department of Kashmir University.
Last week, Fitr-ul-Hassan, a carpet dealer scolded his 19-year-old son, Adil Hassan, for not attending college classes.
Minutes later, Adil swallowed over 25 sleeping pills. He survived after emergency treatment in a hospital. - Reuters


MAKRAJPET (India) - Even when Putta Shankara was lucky enough to find back-breaking casual work as a farm labourer, his debt to the local moneylender rose four times more than his earnings.
At a daily wage of 30 rupees, it would have taken him almost 15 years without a day's rest to pay back the 150,000 rupees ($3,240) he owed, let alone the ballooning interest.
Then the work, like Shankara's own tiny, abandoned fields, slowly dried up and he lost all hope.
So, with monsoon clouds heavy over southern India, the 28-year-old drank some toddy, walked into his gloomy, dirt-floored room in Makrajpet village and hanged himself.
He left behind a dazed widow, Laxmi, their 6-month-old son and 6-year-old daughter.
``We could only cry, no words could say anything,'' says his brother, Siddaih, 38, looking around the room a few days later.
``He was very depressed. He was behaving strangely. It was the pressure of the money lenders and the burden of his debts.''
Across India, thousands of farmers broken by debt, drought and failed crops have killed themselves in recent years, mostly by hanging or drinking pesticide.
No one knows just how many.
Analysts estimate that more than 1,000 farmers have killed themselves since May alone, when a new Congress-led government came to power in New Delhi on a wave of resentment among rural and urban poor who felt left out of India's economic boom.
``It's a crisis. An epidemic,'' says K. Nagaraj, an expert on farmer suicides and poverty at the Madras Institute of Development Studies in southern India, the worst-hit area.
``The tragic farmers' suicides are ... an extreme symptom of a much deeper rural distress.''
Almost 700 million Indians rely on the land for a living, often a life of wretchedness, hunger and disease, condemned to dirt-floored huts of mud-brick, straw and cow dung, working tiny plots that cannot support a single family.
Makrajpet is an ugly, shambolic cluster of huts barely an hour's drive from Hyderabad, capital of Andhra Pradesh state.
Hyderabad (``City of Pearls'') is a gleaming metropolis built on India's hi-tech dream with more brand-name shops and modern malls than the country's capital, New Delhi.
But just as Hyderabad is a showcase for India's strong economic growth - among the world's fastest at more than eight percent in 2003/04 - the state itself has come to represent for many Indians the growing rural despair.
Six years of drought have not helped. And this monsoon, again, the dark clouds promised but did not deliver.
But Shankara's tragedy is not just due to bad luck.
Economic reform has changed the way poor and illiterate farmers work their land, encouraging them to borrow heavily to sink wells, buy new high-yielding seeds or plant cash crops.
Banks have now largely pulled out of farm lending; landlords, at least some of whom felt honour-bound to waive debts in the worst cases, have been replaced by new commercial lenders charging 25-35 percent interest a year.
Often these same lenders sell supplies and services to the farmers, only to buy goods and equipment back from defaulters at fire sale prices to recover their money.
``It's what I would call a classic case of predatory commercialisation,'' says Nagaraj.
``The rural landscape is in a shambles. Agricultural credit and finance schemes have collapsed. Prices have pushed most inputs beyond the reach of the small farmer. For many, the move from food crops to cash crops proved fatal.''
While farmers in some areas have reportedly killed themselves over debts as small as 8,000 rupees ($175), most around Makrajpet owe between 50,000 and 200,000 rupees ($1,090-$4,360).
How do so many people, unable to get enough work to feed their families, dig themselves into such debt? Sheer desperation.
Most of India's farmland is not irrigated. Millions of farmers rely on the capricious monsoon or wells sunk deep into the earth. But uncontrolled tapping of groundwater is making water ever harder to find, hitting small landowners hardest.
This is partly why the suicide rate is so high in Andhra Pradesh, which is poorly irrigated and with few major rivers.
Shankara borrowed heavily to sink three wells on his tiny plot, a little more than half a hectare (1.25 acres). All failed. Some farmers try, in vain, 10 times on a single hectare. At a minimum 50,000 rupees each time, such failure is ruinous.
In Andhra Pradesh, the new state government - which also swept to power this year on a wave of rural anger - is supplying farmers free electricity and giving victims' families 50,000 rupees in cash plus another 100,000 in a fixed deposit.
``We feel compelled to reach out to the farmers,'' chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara told the state assembly recently. ``Not only on humanitarian grounds but also for improving the overall economy.''
India's farm sector accounts for 25 percent of gross domestic product: a sick farm sector hurts growth.
In her home in Makrajpet, Laxmi, 25 but thin and short as a child, stares blankly, her eyes moist as she holds her son on her hip.
Around her, and in the courtyard outside, friends and neighbours drink toddy and sit in eerie silence. Laxmi had to sell her wedding jewellery long ago and her future now is bleak.
``I don't know what to do,'' she whispers, pulling at the threads on her ragged brown headscarf. ``I don't have any work experience. Now I have a baby to look after.''
But she has no anger for her dead husband. ``He didn't do anything wrong,'' she says. ``He did the only thing he could do.'' - Reuters

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Project to grow padi on abandoned land a success

MALACCA: Syarikat Padi Melaka has successfully undertaken a pilot project to cultivate padi on a 24ha site that had been abandoned for 10 years.
Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam said the padi, which was planted at Kg Padang Temu and Kg Ladang in Semabok in June was ready for harvesting.
“We are expecting to get about 3.5 to 4 metric tonnes per ha compared to the average of 6 metric tonnes per ha,” he said.
His speech was read out by state rural development and agriculture committee chairman Datuk Hamdin Abdullah at a ceremony to harvest the padi in Kg Padang Temu here yesterday.
Mohd Ali said the state-owned Syarikat Padi Melaka had leased the land from 97 landowners for a three-year period to undertake the padi cultivation.
“After the three years, the landowners can cultivate their land or continue to lease it back to the company for an annual rental,” he said.
Mohd Ali also said many landowners had not cultivated their land because of labour shortage as well as the lower returns from padi cultivation.
He said though 2,1762ha of land had been allotted for padi cultivation, only 1,801ha had been utilised, with an average yield of 3.5 metric tonnes per ha.
“The yield is lower than the national average of 4.5 metric tonnes per ha and measures have to be taken to increase the output,” he said.
Speaking to reporters later, Hamdin said similar projects would be undertaken in Alai, Kandang and Air Molek in the Melaka Tengah district and in Alor Gajah.

Government agencies have a 'duty to keep public informed'

19 September, 2007
DIFFERENT agencies seem to have different results for the pesticide contamination levels. "When I asked the Department of Agriculture about pesticide contamination, they said it’s only 10 per cent," said Gurmit Singh, the executive director of the Centre for Environment, Technology and Development Malaysia."When I called the Ministry of Health, they told me it’s 30 per cent. If the contamination for farm level is low, how come the retail level is high?"This raises the question of whether the sampling methods are comparable."Gurmit said both agencies should adopt a common sampling method and publish the results in annual reports or on their websites."We can’t depend on research seminars and scare stories to emerge to get information."The agencies have more duty to the public than retailers. They are supposed to make sure the public is not poisoned."Gurmit, however, said not all nice-looking vegetables contained pesticide residues."Organic vegetables are fresh and don’t have holes. And vegetables with holes don’t mean they are not chemically treated. "Maybe the pesticide level is not high enough or the pests have become resistant."And when they are resistant, farmers will use a cocktail of pesticides. This will pose more risks to public health."The Ministry of Health could not be reached for comments.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Stop the erosion, urge residents The current rainy spell has worsened the situation

Wednesday September 12, 2007

MORE than 150 residents of Kampung Baru Air Merah in Kulim are appealing to the authorities to build an embankment along Sungai Air Merah to prevent further erosion along the bank of the river.

Resident Mohd Said Hussein, 76, said the current rainy spell had worsened the situation.
He said following complaints from the residents, officials from the Department of Drainage and Irrigation (DID) visited the site but nothing had been done so far.
He said soil along a 50m stretch of the riverbank collapsed on July 22, resulting in massive flooding at the village.

“All it takes is an hour of heavy rain. The rain causes the river to swell and this is causing fear and anxiety among the village folk,’’ Mohd Said added.
He said the area badly affected by the erosion was the riverbank near Taman Melur where the erosion washed away soil of over one metre high.

“With Ramadan approaching,we hope the authorities will build a strong concrete barricade to prevent further erosion,” he added.

Another resident, Mahathir Saad, 34, said he had written to the Kulim DID but had not received any response.

“We’re willing to do a gotong-royong to help build the barricade as we don’t want our homes to be flooded each time it rains but we lack the funds,” he said.

Kulim assemblyman Boey Chin Gan, who visited the area on Monday said his service centre had alerted the DID to rectify the matter as soon as possible.

“I’ve been told that the department is taking action but is still waiting for an allocation as the budget involves a big sum,” he said, adding that he would contact the DID to expedite the matter.

Sungai Buloh Forest being cleared despite residents’ protest

By K.W. MAKPhotos by BRIAN MOH and K.W. MAK

Green no more: A portion of the Sungai Buloh Forest which has been haphazardly cleared.

PARTS of the Sungai Buloh Forest have been cleared haphazardly, with a large number of trees felled for an unknown development.

Despite nearby residents protesting the clearing that started on Aug 28 to the Petaling Jaya City
Council (MBPJ), the clearing continued uninterrupted through the weekends from 8am to 5pm.
A site check by StarMetro on Saturday found parts of uprooted trees left all over the forest while larger trees were sawed and the trunks removed.

A Kota Damansara pro tem residents committee from Section 8, 9 and 10 said they met with PJ mayor Mohamad Roslan Sakiman a month ago to seek further clarification on the development of the cemetery.

“At that meeting, it was agreed upon that work on the present cemetery could continue but the remaining forest would remain untouched while the council looked for another suitable plot for a cemetery,” said resident Mallek Rizal Mohsin.

“The mayor agreed to call on the town planning department officials to meet up with us and we have been waiting since then but the never took place. Instead, the forest is being cleared.''
Resident Noor Lelawati Khalid said the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) had found several government research papers on the forest that pointed to the importance of the forest.
Among the documents was the MBPJ Local Draft Plan 2020, which pointed out that the Sungai Buloh Forest was rich in biodiversity and the main water retention area for west PJ.
The report stated that the forest was important to control flood and erosion.

Concerned residents: (From left) Sudirman, Mallek, Nurual Azmi Zainuddin and Noor Lelawati have voiced out their fears over the deforestation to MBPJ.“It is categorised as a sensitive environment area where a large part of the topography is high and with a slope of 25%.
“Any encroachment and development of the area will speed up the process of land erosion and disrupt the hydrological system and air quality of nearby areas like PJU10, PJU5 and Sungai Buloh,” she said, citing the report.

Noor Lelawati said the council’s own report already pointed out the dangers of developing the forest and residents could not understand why the council had not stopped the tree felling.
“Despite calls to stop the project to preserve the forest, the deforestation continues indiscriminately,” said Sudirman Jais, adding that animals have been coming into residential areas in search of food.

“Since the project started, every time it rains, we have a flood of mud water gushing down from the hill into our drains and flooding the road.”
The residents said they were extending an open invitation to Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Azmi Khalid to view the destruction and help preserve the precious 100-year-old rainforest that is the last low land forest in Petaling Jaya.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Cholera afflicts 7,000 in Iraq, water tested - WHO

GENEVA (Reuters) - Nearly 7,000 people in northern Iraq have been afflicted with cholera in past weeks, and 10 have died from the diarrhoeal disease, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Tuesday.
Fadela Chaib, a spokeswoman for the United Nations agency, said the precise source of the outbreak spanning three governorates -- Sulaimaniya, Kirkuk and Erbil -- was not yet clear, though polluted water was thought to be the cause.
All public water systems in the affected areas have been chlorinated, and samples are being regularly collected and tested to ensure potable water standards are met, she said.
A woman allegedly contaminated with cholera, is seen in a hospital in Sulaimaniya in Iraq in this August 29, 2007 file photo. (REUTERS/Sherko Raouf)"In controlling the spread of cholera WHO does not recommend any special restrictions to travel or trade to or from affected areas," the Geneva-based agency said in a statement.
According to WHO figures, more than 3,000 people in Sulaimaniya fell ill with acute water diarrhoea linked to cholera between Aug. 23 and Sept. 6. Nine people there died.
Kirkuk had more than 3,700 cases of acute diarrhoeal disease, and one related death between July 29 and Sept. 2. Kirkuk has its first case of cholera confirmed on Aug. 14, and six laboratory-confirmed cases of cholera have been recently been reported in Erbil, the WHO said in a statement.
The International Committee of the Red Cross, Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), and United Nations agencies including UNICEF and the U.N. Development Programme have joined WHO efforts to respond to the cholera epidemic.
These groups have been distributing antibiotics and oral rehydration salts, supporting water monitoring, and educating the public about ways to avoid cholera, which can kill even healthy people in a few hours due to dehydration, Chaib said.
Sudden, large outbreaks of cholera are usually caused by a contaminated water supply. The disease is rarely transmitted by person-to-person contact.

Hotel shows it cares for the environment

TRADERS Hotel staff members went ‘green’ when they celebrated the ISO Week recently.
Themed ‘Heal the World’, the hotel organised a series of activities for staff and guests to help raise their awareness and care towards the environment.
The ISO Week was launched at the hotel's entrance, kicking off its main highlight and first event – the ‘Cycle to Recycle’.
The first 10 cyclists left the hotel at 9.30am and headed to Auto Bavaria on Jalan Anson, where the second team took over and went on to Sunrise Tower's Pizza Hut in Gurney Drive.
They then met the third team at Gurney Tower, which took over the bikes and cycled to the final stop at Singapore Airlines on Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah before heading back to the hotel.
At each stop, a representative of the hotel presented bonsai plants to the businesses’ managements as a gesture of appreciation for letting the cyclists rest and handover their bikes.
The hotel also later set up a collection booth at its entrance from 9am to 1pm to gather recyclable materials from the public.
The ISO Week also included programmes for the hotel’s staff like environmental talks by the Department of Environment deputy director Muniandy Mariappan and Department of Occupational Safety and Health deputy director Hazlina Yon, and a recycle art competition.
There were four screenings of the documentary ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ for the staff and hotel guests at the hotel.
SMK Union students were given a tour of the hotel to learn about water and energy conservations, waste disposal and chemical storage.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Malaysia:Imported greens "may pose health risk"

Imported greens ‘may pose health risk’

JOHOR BARU: Smuggled fish, poultry and vegetables from Brazil and China may be posing a health risk to local consumers.

Farmers Organisation Board chairman Tan Sri Abu Zahar Nika Ujang said unlicensed food imports did not undergo stringent quality tests by the authorities.
"We have received numerous complaints and reports on unlicensed imported foods being sold in the open here."We urge the authorities to investigate the matter," he said after officiating at the annual general meeting of the Johor Farmers Association here yesterday.
Abu Zahar hoped that the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry would conduct more tests on vegetables being sold in the markets to determine the amount of pesticide used.
"The level should not exceed the danger level so that the vegetables are safe for consumption," he said.Abu Zahar said the ministry should also be more consistent with its enforcement practices and the awarding of licences to importers of food items.
"We do not know the standards used in food processing overseas and whether the food is suitable for consumption. We hope the ministry will run more stringent checks before they issue the licences.
"This will reassure consumers of the quality of the food items being sold."

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Memastikan sayuran bebas bahan cemar

SEJAK akhir-akhir ini isu penggunaan racun makhluk perosak dan bahan toksin sentiasa menimbulkan kebimbangan kebanyakan pengguna kerana ia dikatakan menjadi punca kepada penyakit-penyakit berbahaya seperti kanser.

Tanggapan ini sebenarnya kurang tepat kerana bahan pencemaran dan aditif makanan pada paras residu hanya boleh mendatangkan risiko bahaya sahaja, iaitu kemungkinan ia mendatangkan bahaya atau kemungkinan tidak mendatangkan bahaya.

Walau bagaimanapun, jika residu racun ini terkumpul dalam makanan dan telah mempunyai aras yang tinggi dalam tubuh ia kemungkinan boleh mendatangkan bahaya untuk kesan jangka panjang. Kita boleh mengelakkan pengumpulan residu bahan pencemaran dengan mengikut panduan di bawah.

Memakan satu jenis makanan sahaja kana meningkatkan risiko pengambilan bahan toksik dalam sesuatu makanan. Sebagai contoh jika anda suka makan sawi yang sememangnya menggunakan racun makhluk perosak, anda berisiko tinggi untu mengambil bersama satu jenis racun makhluk perosak.

Dengan jangka waktu yang lama, satu jenis racun makhluk perosak akan terkumpul dalam badan dan kemungkinan akan mendatangkan kesan toksik.

Elakkan daripada memperolehi sesuatu jenis makanan dari satu punca atau pembekal atau dari satu temat sahaja. Rational yang digunakan ialah, biasanya makanan dari satu punca akan menggunakan kaedah pengeluaran yang serupa seperti menggunakan racun makhluk perosak yang sama, pencemaran alam sekitar yang sama, kaedah pemprosesan yang serupa, bahan mentah yang sama dan berbagai faktor lain yang sama. dengan menukar punca makanan akan mengurangkan risiko pengumpulan bahan toksik.

Menanam sayur-sayuran di sekeliling rumah dapat memastikan yang ia bebas dari racun makhluk perosak di samping lebih segar dan sedap untuk dimakan. Kaedah menanam sayuran masa kini seperti hidroponik boleh dilakukan dengan mudah.

Pilih sayur-sayuran yang ada kesan ulat/ada ulat/serangga.
Sayur yang ada ulat atau sekurang-kurangnya ada kena ulat menunjukkan kandungan racun yang sedikit untuk membunuh ulat/serangga atau ia menunjukkan sayur itu telah mengikut tempoh penarikan semula selama 14 hari sebelum dituai bagi memastikan bahan toksik yang digunakan adalah ditahap paling minimum. Petua ini tidak begitu tepat kerana penggunaan berbagai racun perosak dengan sesuka hati oleh petani telah mengakibatkan ulat/serangga menjadi lali kepada racun.

Basuh dengan bersih sayur-sayuran.
Dengan membasuh sayuran dapat mengurangkan sedikit residu racun perosak yang terdapat di permukaan daun/batang sekitar 10% hingga 20%. Racun makhluk perosak ini tidak dapat dihilangkan kerana tumbuhan mempunyai lapisan minyak di permukaannya yang mengikat racun makhluk perosak pada permukaannya. Bagi racun perosak yang memasuki sistem kehidupan tanaman (yang diserap oleh tumbuh-tumbuhan), cara membasuh ini tidak berkesan langsung untuk mengurangkan racun perosak.

Dapatkan sayur-sayuran yang ditanam secara hidroponik.
Kaedah penanaman hidroponik dibuat dalam kawasan yang tertutup dengan jaring untuk menghalang serangga perosak. Oleh itu penggunaan racun makhluk perosak adalah minima atau tiada langsung. Sebagai panduan untuk mengenal sayur itu adalah tanaman hidroponik adalah dengan melihat akar yang panjang dan tiada kesan tanah. Untuk lebih yakin dapatkan sayuran yang mempunyai label.

Mendapatkan bekalan dari pertanian organik.
Kaedah tanaman organik di hasilkan secara semula jadi tanpa menggunakan sebarang jenis bahan kimia dan racun perosak. Kaedah hanya menggunakan baja organan. hasil pertanian organik adalah lebih mahal berbanding dengan makanan yang dihasilkan secara biasa. Ini kerana tanpa penggunaan baja dan racun perosak, hasil yang diperolehi adalah amat rendah. Untuk lebih yakin dapatkan sayuran yang mempunyai label.

Di samping memastikan sayuran adalah bebas dari racun makhluk perosak pengguna juga perlu memastikan sayur-sayuran juga selamat dimakan dari aspek kebersihan dan kandungan zat makanan. Maka cara memilih, cara menyimpan dan cara menyediakan sebagai hidangan mestilah betul untuk memastikan kebersihannya terjamin dan kandungan zat makanannya tidak terjejas.

Panduan cara memilih yang perlu kita ikut:
* Pilih sayur-sayuran hijau yang segar dan cerah warnanya.
* Sayur-sayuran jenis bunga mestilah kelihatan cantik bentuknya, magang dan keras.
* Bentuk sayur-sayuran jenis buah-buahan perlu dipilih yang berkeadaan elak dan tidak kelihatan berkedut pada kulit nya atau lembik.
* Sayur-sayuran jenis kekacang perlu dipilih yang cerah warnanya yang rangup apabila dipatah-patahkan.
* Sayuran jenis akar atau bebawang perlu keras apabila dirasa dan kelihatan banyak mengandungi air.
* Sayur-sayuran jenis pucuk hendaklah mempunyai warna cerah, segar dan kelihatan banyak mengandungi air.
Untuk memastikan sayur-sayuran berada dalam keadaan segar dan tahan lama kaedah menyimpan hendaklah betul. Panduan berikut perlu diikuti:
* Sekiranya mempunyai peti sejuk, semua jenis sayur-sayuran perlu disimpan di bahagian bawah atau bahagian khas untuk sayur-sayuran. Sayuran hijau perlu dibasuh dahulu dan disimpan di dalam kotak plastik, peti sejuk atau dibalut dengan kertas supaya ia sentiasa segar.
Sekiranya anda tidak mempunyai peti sejuk, sayur-sayuran boleh juga diletakkan ditempat yang dingin dan redup di bahagian dapur. Elakkan menggunakan beg plastik sekiranya tidak ada peti sejuk untuk mengelakkan sayur-sayuran menjadi layu dan vitaminnya hilang.
* Sayur-sayuran dalam tin hendaklah dipindahkan di dalam bekas simpanan yang lain sebaik sahaja tin itu dibuka dan disimpan di dalam peti sejuk.
* Kentang, keledek, labu dan bawang hendaklah disimpan di dalam bilik yang agak gelap dan sejuk dan jika perlu hendaklah disimpan didalam bakul rotan atau beg tali untuk mendapatkan udara.
Sayur-sayuran selalunya kaya dengan vitamin dan garam mineral. Vitamin C atau asid askorbik mudah hilang semasa memasak melalui proses pengoksidaan (berlaku apabila terdedah kepada udara), tindakan angin dan cara menyiang sayur-sayuran yang tidak betul yang boleh merosakkan sel sayur-sayuran. Kehilangan vitamin C juga boleh disebabkan oleh keadaan haba atau hawa yang terlalu panas, bahan alkali dan apabila dimasak di dalam periuk tembaga (cuprum).
Panduan berikut perlu dipatuhi:
* Basuh sayur terlebih dahulu dengan bersih untuk menghilangkan segala kekotoran dan serangga yang melekat sebelum sayur tersebut dipotong.
* Elakkan merendam sayur-sayuran yang telah dipotong kerana vitamin C mudah hilang di dalam larutan air.
* Ubi kentang hendaklah dikupas kulitnya dan perlu dimasak segera. Sekiranya ubi kentang direndam, zat makanannya akan hilang, dan jika dibiarkan pula tanpa direndam selepas kulit ubi kentang dikopek akan menyebabkannya menjadi lebam.
* Sayur-sayuran jenis berakar dan bebawang perlu dikopek kulitnya. Semasa membasuh pastikan tanah yang terlekat tiada.
* Sayur-sayuran hijau perlu dipotong sebaik sahaja hendak dimasak. Sel yang rosak akan mengeluarkan enzim dan menambahkan kehilangan vitamin C.
* Sayur-sayuran yang disejukkan tidak memerlukan persediaan dan tidak perlu dinyahbekukan dahulu sebelum dimasak.
Daripada panduan-panduan yang telah diberikan, diharap para pengguna dapat mengamalkannya dan semoga kehidupan kita akan menjadi lebih selamat di masa masa akan datang.

Rencana ini sumbangan Seksyen Pemantauan, Penyelidikan dan Pendidikan Pengguna, Bahagian Kawalan Mutu Makanan, Jabatan Kesihatan Awam, Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia.

Memajukan pengeluaran makanan organik

Oleh Azman Anuar(Wartawan Utusan)

Walaupun pengeluaran hasil eksport Malaysia banyak bergantung pada barangan elektrik dan elektronik, tetapi negara kita perlu terus mengeluarkan barangan berasaskan pertanian untuk keperluan tempatan ataupun dipasarkan ke luar negara.

Apabila Kawasan Perdagangan Bebas ASEAN (AFTA) dilaksanakan tahun depan, bermakna komoditi pertanian kita akan bergerak bebas dalam ASEAN dan persaingan dari segi pengeluaran bahan makanan juga akan bertambah.

Bagaimanapun kesedaran tinggi untuk menjaga tahap kesihatan dan memelihara alam sekitar sekarang, demi kesejahteraan rakyat dan negara dalam jangka masa panjang, bagaikan mendesak pasaran bahan makanan perlu kembali kepada aktiviti pertanian organik.

Kementerian Pertanian yang bertanggungjawab dalam sektor pengeluaran bahan makanan negara menyedari untuk mewujudkan aktiviti ladang organik secara satu sistem pertanian.
Sebab itu, jika kita tidak meningkatkan pengeluaran pertanian komersial secara konvensional, pengeluar bahan makanan di negara ini akan menghadapi persaingan pasaran yang sengit. Tetapi pertanian organik boleh membantu menyumbangkan ke arah berdaya saing sektor pertanian di negara ini.

Dengan itu ia patut diberi perhatian yang lebih serius dan berada dalam arus perdana pertanian negara ini.
Persoalannya bagaimana kita hendak mengklasifikasikan hasil pertanian itu sebagai organik atau menggunakan bahan-bahan kimia. Ini kerana selama ini, kita tidak membentuk sistem pemantauan yang membolehkannya diiktiraf sebagai organik. Ada ciri-ciri tertentu yang harus dipatuhi sebelum sesuatu ladang itu boleh dianggap sebagai organik. Misalnya penggunaan amalan pertanian yang baik dengan menggunakan kompos, sisa baki pertanian, baja organik untuk pengeluaran tanaman, pengawalan perosak dan penyakit dijalankan secara amalan kultura, pengurusan biologi dan penyelenggaraan ladang diusahakan di bawah sistem perladangan organik.

Menurut Menteri Pertanian, Datuk Dr. Mohd. Effendi Norwawi ketika merasmikan Seminar Skim Persijilan Perladangan Organik di Kuala Lumpur semalam, negara kita kaya dengan sumber alam semula jadi yang boleh dimanfaatkan sebagai input untuk perladangan organik.
Sebagai contoh katanya, hasil buangan tandan kosong kelapa sawit, jerami padi dan buangan bahan tanaman lain boleh dikitar semula sebagai kompos dengan menggunakan mikroorganisma tempatan dan digunakan sebagai bahan input dalam perladangan organik, dengan syarat ia menepati piawaian yang ditetapkan.

``Di sinilah pihak kerajaan boleh dan sedang memainkan peranan yang aktif dengan menggubal standard perladangan organik yang diterima oleh masyarakat antarabangsa dan seterusnya melaksanakan Skim Persijilan Ladang Organik (SPPO),'' katanya.
Dengan sumber dan faktor yang sedia ada, negara ini boleh memajukan perladangan organik. Faktor Pertama dari segi sumber tanaman, terdapat 400,000 hektar ladang atau kebun diusahakan oleh petani di kampung yang tidak menggunakan baja atau racun kimia seperti tanaman rambutan dan manggis. Melalui usaha yang minimum, kebun-kebun ini boleh dijadikan ladang organik.

Faktor kedua, piawaian perladangan organik MS 1529 (Standard Malaysia bagi Pengeluaran Bahan Makanan Berasaskan Organik) telah digubal dan diguna pakai. Dokumen ini menghurai piawaian yang patut diikuti untuk perladangan organik seperti pengeluaran, pemprosesan, pelabelan dan pemasaran.

Faktor ketiga ialah teknologi Natural Farming (perkebunan semula jadi). Dengan menggunakan mikroorganisma dan bahan buangan tempatan yang senang diperoleh, ia akan dapat mengurangkan kos pengeluaran dan membolehkan bahan makanan organik dijual pada harga yang mampu dibeli oleh kebanyakan pengguna.

Mengikut Jabatan Pertanian, pengusaha pertanian yang menepati piawaian MS 1529 akan diiktiraf dan menerima sijil SPPO. Piawaian ini menggariskan keperluan yang berkaitan dengan pengeluaran, pemprosesan, penyimpanan, pengangkutan, melabel dan pemasaran bahan makanan organik.

Pengeluar bahan makanan yang mendapat skim persijilan ini akan memperoleh faedah berupa hak menggunakan logo `Malaysian Organic' atau `Organik Malaysia' pada produk mereka.
Dengan label ini, produk tersebut boleh dipasarkan sebagai produk organik dengan harga yang setimpal.
Pengguna juga memperoleh faedahnya dengan mendapat keyakinan bahawa produk yang mempunyai logo tersebut telah mematuhi piawaian organik negara MS 1529. Satu perkara yang perlu ditekankan ialah perladangan organik tidak akan menggantikan perladangan secara konvensional. Ia patut dilihat sebagai alternatif kepada hasil keluaran dari perladangan konvensional.

Bagi menjayakan usaha ini, isu-isu seperti kemudahan pinjaman, pemasaran, penyelidikan dan pembangunan serta pendidikan pengguna perlu diselesaikan supaya ia boleh membawa kepada kemajuan perladangan organik.

Parakuat pembunuh senyap


KAUM wanita yang bekerja sebagai penyembur racun perosak di ladang-ladang kelapa sawit di seluruh negara kini diancam oleh racun parakuat, demikian menurut penemuan kajian yang dijalankan oleh dua pertubuhan bukan kerajaan (NGO), baru-baru ini.
Mereka yang merupakan penyumbang terbesar dalam aktiviti perladangan tidak menyedari bahawa kegiatan mencampur bahan racun sebelum menyemburnya boleh `membunuh' secara senyap.
Para pekerja ini sering mengadu keletihan, pening-pening, sukar bernafas, menghadapi masalah kulit, loya, radang mata, sakit kepala, sakit belakang, keracunan dan rasa terbakar pada faraj.
Selain itu, soal selidik yang dijalankan menunjukkan pekerja-pekerja mengalami pendarahan hidung, pengeluaran air mata, perubahan warna pada kuku, bengkak pada sendi serta kuku tertanggal.
Keadaan bertambah buruk jika mereka hamil kerana pendedahan pada racun boleh memberi kesan pada sistem pembiakan dan berpotensi untuk memusnahkan janin dalam rahim.
Ironinya, pasaran racun serangga meningkat stabil di peringkat kebangsaan dengan jualan mencecah RM245 juta pada tahun 1998 ketika wanita-wanita ladang merintih kesakitan dalam diam.
Ekoran daripada aduan tersebut, satu kajian dijalankan oleh Tenaganita Sdn. Bhd. dan Pesticide Action Network Asia dan Pasifik (PAN AP) mendedahkan beberapa isu kritikal yang memerlukan perhatian serius.
Penemuan hasil kajian menandakan kawalan penggunaan racun melalui Akta Racun Makhluk Perosak 1974 dan Akta Kesihatan dan Keselamatan Pekerja (OSHA) 1954 tidak begitu berjaya untuk membela nasib kaum wanita di ladang.
Sehubungan itu, dua NGO berkenaan mencadangkan penggunaan racun serangga parakuat di ladang-ladang di negara ini diharamkan sepenuhnya kerana kesannya amat membahayakan kesihatan.
Cadangan itu adalah hasil kata sepakat yang dicapai oleh Pengarah Eksekutif PAN AP, Sarojeni V. Rengam bersama-sama Pengarah Tenaganita, Dr. Irene Fernandez yang menjayakan kajian tersebut.
Kajian bertajuk Keracunan Akibat Penggunaan Racun Serangga Dalam Sektor Pertanian itu dijalankan terhadap penyembur-penyembur racun di 17 kawasan pertanian di Selangor, Perak dan Kedah.
Ketika melancarkan hasil penemuan kajian itu di Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), baru-baru ini Sarojeni berkata, wanita terbukti berisiko tinggi terkena keracunan kerana tidak dilengkapi dengan peralatan sesuai.
Katanya, penemuan yang diperoleh mendapati, wanita-wanita tersebut terdedah kepada keracunan akibat penggunaan racun serangga perosak jenis organophosphate dan carbamate.
Kajian merangkumi soal selidik, pemerhatian terhadap contoh darah untuk plasma pseudo cholinesterase enzyme dan pemeriksaan kesihatan terhadap pekerja yang mengadu diserang simptom-simptom keracunan ketika bekerja di ladang.
Ujian darah yang dijalankan mendapati, terdapat penurunan pada aktiviti acetyl cholinesterase enzyme yang mengesahkan seseorang itu keracunan.
Penyembur-penyembur biasanya tidak berhati-hati dengan kandungan bahan kimia yang digunakan ketika mencampur racun yang hanya dikenali melalui nama tertentu, warna dan bentuk yang digunakan.
Racun boleh memasuki tubuh melalui pernafasan, tertelan, sentuhan pada kulit (paling biasa) dan terkena mata ketika terpercik atau tumpah.
Pekerja selalu mengadu bahawa alat yang biasa digunakan iaitu pam tangan sering bocor selain kurangnya penjagaan kesihatan atau alat bantuan kecemasan disediakan oleh pihak pengurusan estet.
Walaupun ada majikan yang menyediakan alat keselamatan pada pam, pekerja pula mengambil sikap sambil lewa termasuk tidak membasuh tangan selepas menggunakannya.
Selain kurang pengetahuan, mereka tidak dapat membaca arahan pada label racun sama ada dalam bahasa Melayu atau bahasa Inggeris.
Penemuan juga mendedahkan bahawa mereka hidup dalam serba kekurangan terutama dari segi perubatan yang sepatutnya disediakan oleh pihak estet.
Ini ditambah pula bahawa penyembur yang kebanyakan terdiri daripada kaum wanita India memperoleh gaji purata RM14.60 sehari.
Selain itu, pengurusan estet gagal menyediakan latihan tertentu untuk membolehkan pekerja-pekerja ladang berhati-hati ketika mengendalikan racun serangga. Keadaan menjadi bertambah buruk jika peralatan yang digunakan bocor dan kemudian disimpan di kawasan rumah.
Sehubungan itu, kerajaan digesa melatih pegawai-pegawai perubatan untuk mengenal pasti dan merawat mangsa keracunan pada peringkat awal serta mengkaji penggunaannya dengan lebih berkesan.
Tindakan untuk mengurangkan atau mencegah terkena keracunan akibat penggunaan racun serangga memerlukan beberapa pendekatan antaranya:
- Mengharamkan sepenuhnya penggunaan parakuat atau dikawal selia dengan ketat
- Maklumat berkenaan isi kandungan racun boleh didapati dengan mudah
- Pekerja yang berisiko wajar diberi amaran agar berhati-hati selain diberi kuasa untuk mempertahankan hak masing-masing
- Penjagaan perubatan dan kesihatan yang mencukupi disediakan di estet
- Undang-undang sedia ada disemak semula agar pengendalian racun lebih berkesan
- Kawalan yang lebih berkesan dan kerap bagi memastikan peraturan dipatuhi
- Pengguna-pengguna racun serangga dilatih untuk mengendalikan racun dengan cara yang betul
Kajian yang dijalankan itu walaupun tidak lengkap sepenuhnya adalah satu percubaan untuk mendokumentasikan tahap kesihatan berkaitan dengan masalah penyembur-penyembur racun di kalangan pekerja wanita di ladang-ladang seluruh negara.
Penemuan ini membangkitkan isu-isu yang kritikal mengenai keselamatan dan kesihatan pekerja yang semestinya memerlukan pengkajian mendalam dan pemeriksaan teliti.

Selesaikan pertikaian pengharaman parakuat

Oleh Laupa Junus (wartawan Utusan)

Dengan pendapatan antara RM400 dan RM600 sebulan, pekebun kecil yang jumlahnya dianggarkan 700,000 kini perlu mengusahakan tanaman komoditi tanpa penggunaan parakuat (racun rumpai) seperti mana yang dikehendaki oleh kerajaan. Isu pemberhentian penggunaan parakuat untuk pertanian dibangkitkan sejak hampir setahun lalu.
Tidak ada rekod yang jelas bagi menunjukkan berapa banyak kos diperlukan untuk menggunakan racun parakuat dalam keseluruhan kos pengeluaran pertanian.
``Bagaimanapun secara purata umur pekebun kecil ialah 60 tahun. Tidak mungkin mereka turun menebas membersihkan kawasan kebun menggunakan sabit atau parang,'' kata Presiden Kebangsaan Pekebun-Pekebun Kecil (NASH), Datuk Mazlan Jamaluddin.
Menebas hanyalah satu pilihan terakhir bagi mengelakkan peningkatan kos kerana racun lain dikatakan berharga tiga kali ganda lebih tinggi.
Justeru beliau bimbang, dengan desakan yang kuat dan tidak ada pilihan lain, pekebun kecil mungkin terpaksa menggunakan racun-racun parakuat yang diperoleh dari pasaran gelap.
Kata beliau 60 peratus kos pengeluaran pekebun kecil bersumberkan tenaga buruh dan 98 peratus pekebun kecil menggunakan racun parakuat. Fakta-fakta tersebut katanya amat membimbangkan beliau terutama dengan tanda-tanda parakuat kini dikawal dan menuju kepada kemungkinan ia diharamkan.
Sedangkan katanya, parakuat sudah menjadi rakan pekebun kecil sejak 40 tahun lalu. Racun ini seolah-olah sudah menjadi tools of trade yang mempertahankan ekonomi pekebun kecil. Justeru agak sukar bagi pekebun kecil menukar kepada alternatif kawalan rumpai melainkan terpaksa menggunakan sabit.
Beliau juga bimbang pengharaman parakuat menjejaskan produktiviti pekebun kecil dan meningkatkan kos pengeluaran.
Menurut Mazlan yang menjadi jurucakap kepada tiga persatuan yang meminta kajian semula pengharaman parakuat, satu kajian yang dibuat oleh NASH, Persatuan Kelapa Sawit Malaysia (MPOA) dan Persatuan Pemilik Estet Malaysia (MEOA), pengharaman itu memungkinkan negara kerugian sehingga RM2.73 bilion dalam tempoh 10 tahun akan datang dan menjejaskan daya saing minyak sawit Malaysia di pasaran antarabangsa.
Kajian itu katanya yang bertajuk The Economic and Social Impact of a Paraquat Prohibition in Malaysia mendapati kerugian terkumpul itu berpunca daripada kos kawalan rumpai berjumlah RM1.57 bilion dan pengurangan hasil tanaman berjumlah RM1.16 bilion.
Pekebun kecil katanya, tidak lagi mampu bertahan dengan kos pengeluaran yang tinggi dan pada masa yang sama tidak ada pelapis daripada generasi baru.
Kata Mazlan, seolah-olah ada pihak cuba berselindung di sebalik isu ini. Siapakah yang beliau maksudkan?
Mazlan tidak menyebut atau menuding jari kepada sesiapa tetapi perbuatan yang menyebabkan pekebun kecil gelisah, tidak stabil akan menyebabkan pengeluaran bahan komoditi khususnya kelapa sawit boleh terjejas. Dan, langkah pengharaman parakuat itu mengundang masalah baru iaitu penyeludupan racun parakuat yang dikatakan telah meningkatkan kepada 10 peratus.
Beliau kecewa kerana keputusan Lembaga Racun Makhluk Perosak (LRMP) itu tidak diberitahu secara rasmi kepada pekebun kecil, khususnya NASH.
Mazlan mendakwa pada 27 Ogos tahun lalu LRMP mengeluarkan satu surat pekeliling supaya semua permohonan untuk mendaftar atau mendaftar semula parakuat ditolak manakala permohonan yang sedang dalam proses akan dihentikan. Pada masa yang sama produk yang didaftarkan sebelum itu diminta supaya dihabiskan.
Pada masa ini terdapat 113 pendaftaran racun parakuat dan pendaftaran semula yang diterima sehingga September 2005. Sebanyak 120 negara pula menggunakan racun tersebut, menunjukkan ia begitu meluas digunakan.
Beliau mendakwa, NASH cuba mengadakan dialog dan pernah membawa kira-kira 9,000 tandatangan menyatakan rasa tidak puas hati berhubung tindakan LRMP itu kepada Timbalan Perdana Menteri, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi pada November tahun lalu.
Sekiranya tindakan pengharaman parakuat itu bertitik tolak daripada isu penyalahgunaan parakuat yang dikatakan digunakan untuk membunuh diri, bukti kukuh perlu diberikan dengan fakta.
``Kalau boleh biarlah ada penilaian risiko kesihatan dibuat sebelum tindakan pengharaman diambil,'' katanya.
Pada masa yang sama, pengharaman itu membayangkan hak pengguna pekebun-pekebun kecil dinafikan kerana tidak ada perbincangan mengenainya dibuat sebelum tindakan diambil.
Sementara itu, Timbalan Ketua Pengarah Pertanian yang juga Pengerusi Jawatankuasa Teknikal LRMP, Dr. Zulkifli Kamaruzzaman menafikan kenyataan yang dibuat oleh NASH bahawa keputusan untuk mengharamkan parakuat tidak berasaskan kepada sains.
Sebaliknya keputusan untuk menamatkan pendaftaran parakuat adalah keputusan yang dibuat secara kolektif oleh LRMP yang ahlinya terdiri daripada beberapa agensi kerajaan berkaitan.
``Keputusan tersebut adalah selari dengan dasar semasa LRMP yang turut mendukung aspirasi dan tuntutan masa kini yang memerlukan racun perosak dikawal dan diurus secara berkesan selari dengan kehendak pembangunan lestari bagi menjamin keselamatan manusia dan perlindungan alam sekitar,'' katanya.
Malah menurut Dr. Zulkifli, keputusan pengharaman ini turut diperakukan oleh Kabinet. Beliau menjelaskan, cadangan untuk mengharamkan parakuat ini bukanlah perkara baru.
Dr. Zulkifli berkata, syor supaya racun perosak ini diharamkan telah mula dibangkitkan dalam mesyuarat LRMP sejak 1985 lagi.
Ia dibuat kerana parakuat adalah sejenis racun perosak yang sangat bahaya kepada manusia dan statistik kes keracunan yang dikumpulkan oleh Kementerian Kesihatan melalui kes-kes yang dimasukkan ke hospital kerajaan menunjukkan parakuat adalah kes racun perosak yang pa-ling banyak dilaporkan.
``Lebih malang lagi kebanyakan kes ini berakhir dengan kematian. Keadaan ini terjadi kerana parakuat tidak mempunyai penawar iaitu jika terminum walaupun dalam kuantiti yang sedikit seperti kurang satu pertiga sudu teh, parakuat akan meninggalkan kesan terbakar kepada mulut, tekak dan esofagus yang bersifat tidak boleh dipulihkan dan selalunya mangsa akan mati,'' katanya.
Meskipun LRMP menyedari bahawa parakuat banyak menyebabkan kes keracunan, ia masih tidak dapat diharamkan pada 1985 kerana mengambil kira beban pengguna. LRMP berpendapat bahawa parakuat masih tidak boleh diharamkan kerana langkah tersebut mungkin boleh meningkatkan kos pengawalan rumpai di ladang dan seterusnya boleh menyebabkan kos pengeluaran bahan tanaman tidak berdaya saing.
``Langkah bagi mengharamkan parakuat yang dibuat pada 27 Ogos tahun lalu telah mengambil kira faktor-faktor semasa,'' katanya.
LRMP masih berpendapat bahawa pengharaman parakuat yang dibuat sekarang tidak akan meningkatkan kos pengeluaran tanaman ladang kerana kini terdapat banyak racun rumpai alternatif yang boleh menggantikan parakuat.
Dr. Zulkifli menambah, kes keracunan parakuat yang dilaporkan oleh Kementerian Kesihatan berkemungkinan besar hanyalah tip of the iceberg kerana hanya statistik kes keracunan yang dimasukkan ke hospital kerajaan sahaja dilaporkan.
Bagaimana pula dengan kes keracunan atau kematian yang dilaporkan ke hospital swasta atau tidak dilaporkan langsung? Ini termasuklah kesan buruk akibat penggunaan parakuat di kalangan pekerja ladang seperti kerosakan pada kuku dan kesan alahan pada kulit.
Bagaimanapun katanya, pengharaman parakuat tidaklah dibuat secara serta-merta. Sebaliknya penamatan pendaftaran parakuat dibuat secara beransur-ansur dan hanya akan tamat sepenuhnya pada Julai 2005. Keputusan ini diambil setelah mengambil kira masalah stok parakuat yang sedia ada di pasaran yang patut diberi masa untuk digunakan dan juga memberi masa yang mencukupi kepada para petani dan ladang-ladang untuk bertukar secara beransur-ansur menggunakan racun rumpai alternatif.
Selain Malaysia, beberapa negara lain turut mengambil tindakan yang sama bagi mengharamkan racun parakuat. Kini, dua pihak terbabit sudah menjelaskan fakta dan hujah masing-masing berhubung isu ini.
Adalah tidak wajar meletakkan kesalahan kepada mana-mana pihak, sedangkan pintu rundingan masih terbuka untuk kedua-dua pihak mewujudkan formula `menang-menang'.

Shahmil Izwan mungkin sengaja diracun


TAIPING 31 Ogos – Muhammad Shahmil Izwan Ahmad Shokri, 14, pelajar Sekolah Menengah Agama Addiniah di Changkat Jering dekat sini yang kini koma kerana terminum racun rumpai Isnin lalu dipercayai dianiaya rakan seasramanya sendiri.
Abang kembarnya, Muhammad Shauqi Izuan, 14, mendakwa, sebelum kejadian kira-kira pukul 9 malam itu, adiknya dipanggil oleh seorang rakan ke bilik asrama atas alasan hendak mengemas pakaian.
Dia yang pada mulanya tidak mengesyaki apa-apa terus menuju ke kelas bersama rakan-rakan lain untuk mengulangkaji pelajaran seperti biasa.
Bagaimanapun, katanya, dia terperanjat apabila diberitahu seorang rakan lain bahawa adiknya itu terminum racun di bilik asrama.
Menurutnya, dia terus bergegas keluar menuju ke asrama dan terserempak rakan yang memanggil Muhammad Shamil Izwan untuk mengemas pakaian.
‘‘Pelajar itu nampak cemas dan menghalang saya daripada ke asrama malah mendakwa adik saya terkena penyakit sawan.
‘‘Saya tak percaya dakwaan pelajar terbabit kerana Muhammad Shamil Izwan tidak pernah kena sawan dan apabila sampai ke asrama saya dapati badannya sudah menggeletar, mulutnya berbuih dan jatuh pengsan,’’ katanya ketika ditemui pemberita di Hospital Taiping di sini hari ini.
Menurut Muhammad Shauqi, dakwaan bahawa adiknya terminum racun daripada labu sayong yang disimpan di dalam almari juga tidak masuk akal kerana labu itu tidak pernah digunakan sebagai bekas menyimpan minuman.
Malah, dakwanya, penemuan sebuah botol air yang mengandungi racun rumpai yang sama diletakkan dalam labu air itu juga menunjukkan ada pihak yang cuba meracun adiknya.
‘‘Sebelum kejadian itu saya dapati adik saya berada dalam keadaan muram selepas dia bertemu dengan pelajar yang memanggilnya mengemas pakaian itu tadi.
‘‘Jadi saya rasa kejadian minum racun ini ada kaitan dengan semua perkara yang saya alami dan lihat sebelum itu. Ia mungkin dirancang dan pelajar yang terlibat cuba menyembunyikan perkara sebenar daripada polis,’’ katanya.
Kata Muhammad Shauqi, selepas kejadian itu pelajar yang disyaki dilihat berada dalam keadaan tidak tenteram dan banyak membuat kenyataan mengelirukan kepada pelajar serta guru.
‘‘Malah ketika wartawan TV3 datang ke sekolah baru-baru ini, dia tampil untuk ditemu bual dan memberi kenyataan yang tidak benar, mungkin dia mahu menyembunyikan sesuatu dan merahsiakan perkara sebenar,’’ katanya.
Sementara itu, ibu saudara mangsa yang enggan dikenali berkata, Muhammad Shamil Izwan masih berada dalam keadaan kritikal dan belum sedarkan diri.

Pelajar paksa rakan minum racun direman


TAIPING 3 Sept. – Polis hari ini menahan reman seorang pelajar lelaki yang didakwa telah memaksa rakannya, Muhammad Shahmil Izwan Ahmad Shokri, 14, minum secawan air disyaki beracun sehingga menyebabkan mangsa koma selama empat hari, Isnin lalu.
Suspek iaitu pelajar tingkatan dua Sekolah Menengah Agama (SMA) Addiniah Changkat Jering di sini merupakan rakan seasrama mangsa.
Berdasarkan keterangan Muhammad Shahmil semalam menerusi nota yang ditulisnya sejurus sedar daripada koma, suspek dikatakan telah memanggil mangsa untuk ‘dibelanja minum dan makan roti canai’.
Tetapi sebaliknya, mangsa dipaksa minum secawan air yang dipercayai beracun yang menyebabkannya pening kepala lalu pengsan pada hari kejadian.
Ketua Polis Daerah Taiping, Asisten Komisioner Raja Musa Raja Razak berkata, perintah reman ke atas pelajar juga berusia 14 tahun itu dikeluarkan Mahkamah Majistret Taiping di sini pagi ini.
Beliau memberitahu, pelajar tersebut akan direman enam hari atau sehingga Sabtu ini mengikut Seksyen 117 Kanun Acara Jenayah bagi membantu siasatan lanjut.
“Sepasukan polis telah menahan pelajar terbabit yang juga rakan satu asrama mangsa sebaik dia masuk semula ke asrama di sekolah itu kira-kira pukul 6.30 petang semalam.
“Nama pelajar itu tertera pada nota yang ditulis mangsa semalam dan dia juga merupakan pelajar yang memberi kenyataan kepada sebuah stesen televisyen swasta tidak lama selepas kejadian,” katanya ketika ditemui di Ibu Pejabat Polis Daerah Taiping di sini, hari ini.
Isnin lalu, Muhammad Shahmil Izwan koma selepas dikatakan terminum racun rumpai.
Semalam, misteri di sebalik kejadian itu hampir terjawab selepas mangsa mula sedarkan diri dan menceritakan rentetan kejadian yang menimpa dirinya.
Setelah koma selama empat hari akibat terminum racun itu, Muhammad Shahmil mendakwa telah dianiayai oleh seorang rakannya.
Dia membongkar sebahagian misteri itu menerusi nota yang ditulisnya di atas tujuh helai kertas sebaik sedar di Unit Rawatan Rapi, Hospital Taiping semalam.
Raja Musa berkata, buat masa ini polis tidak mempunyai suspek lain dan mengandaikan hanya pelajar itu seorang sahaja yang terlibat.
Kata beliau, kes berkenaan akan disiasat mengikut Seksyen 307 Kanun Keseksaan kerana cubaan membunuh.
Bagaimanapun, katanya, hukuman yang akan dikenakan ke atas suspek tidak sama seperti pesalah dewasa walaupun sabit kesalahan kerana ia merupakan kes juvenil.
Mengenai nota itu pula, Raja Musa menjelaskan, ia amat membantu siasatan polis dan selepas ini akan menyoal siasat suspek bagi mengumpul maklumat lebih lengkap.
“Ini termasuk maklumat utama seperti di mana suspek membeli racun itu, racun jenis apa dan berapa banyak dia membeli racun itu.
“Perkara ini amat penting kerana racun paraquat yang kita ambil daripada tukang kebun sekolah selepas kejadian didapati tidak sepadan dengan racun yang digunakan oleh suspek,” katanya.
Sementara itu, bapa mangsa, Ahmad Shokri Ayob, 44, ketika dihubungi berkata, keluarganya amat bersyukur dengan perkembangan siasatan kes itu dan berharap segala misteri kejadian tersebut akan terjawab.
Katanya, keadaan anaknya itu juga semakin baik apabila sudah tidak lagi menggunakan bantuan pernafasan dan boleh bercakap secara perlahan-lahan.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Move to educate farmers on use of pesticides

KUCHING: The move by Brunei authorities to ban the import of vegetables from Malaysia, particularly from Sarawak, over the past three months has affected vegetable growers in the state.
A member of the FAMA Board of Directors, Fadillah Yusof, said the ban was believed to be due to the high level of chemicals and pesticides found in vegetables exported by Sarawak to Brunei.
“We will seek the cooperation of the Sarawak Agricultural Department to educate vegetable farmers on the use of pesticides and chemicals,” he said.
This could help lift the ban, he added.
Fadillah said this after launching an upgrading work at the Satok Weekend Market here on Saturday.
Fadillah, who is also Member of Parliament for Petra Jaya, said the sale of jungle fruits and naturally-growing plants from Sarawak were still accepted by Brunei authorities.
He said, besides the import of vegetables from Sarawak, Brunei also imported vegetables from Sabah.
On Aug 28, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said the contamination of vegetables in the country was under control and the Health Ministry was monitoring the situation constantly.
He said the ministry would take appropriate action if the level of pesticides found in vegetables exceeded the permissible level under the Food Regulations Act 1985. – Bernama

High alert over China food products

BATU PAHAT: Food and pharmaceutical products from China have been put on the highest alert after some of them were found to contain harmful elements and violating specifications.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said these products were placed on Level Five of the imported foods monitoring scale, which is the highest.
Under this, he said all food, including herbal products and health supplements, must be tested before they were allowed to enter the country.
It also required that pharmaceutical products from China be registered with the Health Ministry and for the importer to obtain a licence for each product.
Dr Chua said the food products would be tested for pesticides, antibiotics, heavy metals and other matter which would have negative health effects.
He said imports from China would only be allowed into the country if they were safe for consumption, otherwise, they would have to be destroyed or returned.
“With all the tests and requirements, we can be assured that all products in the market are safe,” he said.
Dr Chua said that in the first seven months of the year, 217 pharmaceutical products were found to have not followed the specifications set by the ministry.
He said warnings and other actions, including revoking licences and cancelling registrations, were taken against offenders.
He said 18 types of food were also found to have violated the Food Act 1983.
He said the products that included honey, red dates, seaweed, preserved fruits and salted vegetables and preserved salted radish contained, among others, chloramphenicol, heavy metals and benzoic acid.
Dr Chua, who is also Johor MCA chairman and Labis MP, was talking to the press after attending the launching and ground-breaking ceremony for an upgrading project of the hospital here yesterday

Barn used as storage for pesticides goes up in flames

September 1, 2007

NEWINGTON, Conn. --Environmental officials are checking the air quality as firefighters work to control a fire in a barn where pesticides were stored.

Newington fire officials say the blaze broke out in a former chicken coop on a side street near the Berlin Turnpike, releasing pesticide fumes into the air in the dense smoke.
No injuries are reported, but people who live nearby were ordered out of their homes and local roads are closed. Fire crews from several area towns are assisting.

The state Department of Environmental Protection also is conducting air-quality tests in the area.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Pesticides in school fruit


FRUIT and veg given to thousands of school children contains 27 per cent MORE pesticides than shop-sold produce, a study reveals.

Nearly 170 samples supplied under the School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme were tested by Government food scientists.

At least one pesticide was found in 84 per cent. And 65 per cent showed traces of more than one.The scientists from the Pesticide Residues Committee also tested 882 samples of the same non-organic fruit and vegetables on sale in shops in 2004.

Just over half — 57 per cent — contained pesticides, while 36 per cent had multiple traces.The figures were released in a new report by campaign group the Soil Association.

Policy director Peter Melchett said: “We strongly support the school fruit scheme.

“But it is wrong for a scheme that provides produce to the most vulnerable in society to source lower quality fruit and vegetables.“These contain a higher proportion of pesticides, and pesticide cocktails, than the fruit and vegetables available in shops.”

He added: “It is vital that children eat more fruit and vegetables.“To encourage this the school fruit scheme needs to focus on sourcing high-quality produce, wherever possible from the UK. We need zero pesticides.”