U-turn on ban of three farm chemicals angers Bhumjaithai party

In an abrupt about-turn, which threatens to cause a rift in the Government’s coalition, the new National Hazardous Substances Committee (NHSC), chaired by Industry Minister Suriya Juangroongruangkit of the Palang Pracharat party, overturned its predecessor’s decision to ban paraquat, glyphosate and chlorpyrifos effective from December 1st.

The NHSC endorsed a proposal by the Agriculture Department for a postponement of the ban for six months and allow the controlled use of the herbicide glyphosate for indefinite period.

The committee also assigned the Agriculture Department to find alternative substances to replace paraquat and chlorpyrifos.  It was also instructed it to work out measures to mitigate health threats to the public and any other impacts caused by the continued use of the three hazardous chemicals. The department is to report back to the NHSC within four months from today.

The NHSC’s decision today represents a slap in the face for Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul and Deputy Agriculture Minister Mananya Thaiseth, both members of the Bhumjaithai party which was the main driving force behind the efforts to ban the chemicals.

The Agriculture Department, which is under the direction of Ms. Mananya, completely bypassed her by submitting its delay proposal directly to the NHSC through the agriculture permanent secretary.

In overturning its predecessor’s decision, the new NHSC pointed out that enforcing the December 1st ban would not be realistic until alternatives are found and appropriate measures are put in place to cushion the impacts on farmers, related industries and international trade.

There are about 23,000 tonnes of the chemicals in the country and destroying them will be costly, which would be necessary because some cannot be re-exported, according to the NHSC.

An informed source said Mr. Anutin and Ms. Mananya are very upset with the Agriculture Department for having bypassing Ms. Mananya.

The proposal was reportedly approved by Agriculture Minister Chalermchai Sri-on of the Democrat party, who is known to not fully agree with the ban.

Anutin has reportedly asked Ms. Mananya for an urgent meeting at parliament to discuss the Bhumjaithai party’s response to the committee’s about-turn.

A Press conference is expected late this evening from the party.

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