Supporters and opponents of three controversial farm chemicals gather ahead of tomorrow’s vote

Supporters of the complete ban on paraquat, glyphosate and chlorpyrifos and their opponents are gearing up for a show of force today, ahead of tomorrow’s vote by the National Hazardous Substances Committee (NHSC) on whether to completely ban the three toxic farm chemicals, or to uphold its earlier decision to just restrict their use, a restriction which came into force yesterday.

Members of farmer associations engaged in the cultivation of sugarcane, oil pam, para-rubber, tapioca, maize and tropical fruits, led by Mr. Sukan Sangkhawanna, secretary-general of Safe Farming Federation, are due to declare their shared position over the chemicals at the Asia Hotel today.

He said that the farmer groups want the NHSC to postpone its decision until affordable alternatives are available for farmers, who are heavily dependent on the weed and insect killers to save their crops.

He cited a study by Associate Professor Poopiphob Kasemsap of Kasetsart University which claimed that about 80% of tapioca crops would be ruined within two months if the farmers could not control weeds.

Mr. Sukan will lead farmer’s representatives to call on Agriculture Minister Chalermchai Sri-on, at the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives this afternoon, to convey to him the farmers’ grave concerns over a ban in the absence of viable alternatives.

They claim a complete ban on the three chemicals is not the solution because consumers will still face risks from alternative substances and chemical traders will be the only ones to benefit because they will sell alternatives.

Meanwhile, members of a network of consumer and civic groups are gathering at the Ministry of Public Health and are due to announce their support, to senior health officials, for a complete ban on all three substances.

It is reported that the NHSC will call for a free vote by its 27 committee members tomorrow.

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