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Pesticides are poisoning Indonesia’s farmers, new research reveals

During the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Global Major Groups and Stakeholders Forum last month, the Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PANAP) released its report revealing hazardous pesticide use in many parts of Asia.

The report, ’Communities in Peril: Asian Regional Report on Community Monitoring of Highly Hazardous Pesticide Use’ uses information from interviews on pesticide use with over 1,300 peasant farmers and agricultural workers from eight Asian countries* in collaboration with local partner organizations.

The results revealed that 66% of pesticide active ingredients used on vegetables, cotton, paddy rice, and other crops are highly hazardous according to PAN International classification criteria.

“Exposure to these pesticides puts communities at high risk of developing severe permanent health problems such as endocrine disruption, which can be caused at low doses of exposure to certain pesticides,” said Bella Whittle, coordinator of the project and author of the report. “It is especially distressing that the most vulnerable populations, such as women and children, the sick and malnourished, and the elderly are disproportionately affected and cannot escape the sources of exposure.”

Several pesticides found in the Asian countries have been banned in other areas of the world, even the countries that house the agrochemical companies’ headquarters. For instance, Paraquat is banned in Europe.

The report observes that people are exposed to the harmful chemicals for a variety of reasons: partial, inadequate or complete lack of personal protective equipment; spills during mixing, spraying, and/or loading of the pesticides; poor storage and disposal practices; and spraying against the wind, which facilitates spray drift. It is also common to find empty containers in the agricultural fields. Water is contaminated by chemical runo-ff and by washing equipment in local water bodies.

The report concludes that huge efforts are needed to implement international codes and conventions on pesticides and to meet the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation goal for 2020, whereby chemicals are produced in ways that lead to the minimisation of significant effects to human health and the environment.

The report offers recommendations to alleviate the worst pesticides problems in developing countries, particularly in Asia, including the reduction and elimination of highly hazardous pesticides and putting a stop to government registration of pesticides that require personal protective equipment (PPE) because of its inadequacy and cost, making proper use unfeasible.

“Governments should phase out highly hazardous pesticides and progressively phase-in non-chemical pest management approaches,” said PAN AP Executive Director Sarojeni Rengam. “Support needs to focus on the investigation, education, and promotion of agro-ecological practices, Biodiversity Based Ecological Agriculture and Integrated Pest Management.” More details on the recommendations and alternatives to chemical based agriculture are given in the report.

*Cambodia, Sri Lanka, China, Philippines, Vietnam, India, Indonesia, and Malaysia.

Written on 23 March 2010.



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