June 1, 2020 / 12:46 PM / a month ago

Thailand's chemical pesticide ban troubles farmers, industries

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand enforced a ban on Monday on two agricultural chemicals widely regarded as toxic to humans, prompting claims from farmers they will face losses, while environmental campaigners welcomed a step towards sustainability.

FILE PHOTO: Phon Tongmak, a rubber tree farmer (back), rows a boat in floodwaters in his rubber plantation with his friend at Cha-uat district in Nakhon Si Thammarat Province, southern Thailand, January 18, 2017. Picture taken January 18, 2017. REUTERS/Surapan Boonthanom/File Photo

Many countries have already prohibited paraquat and chlorpyrifos, which are found in pesticides or insecticides.

Some 10 million farming households in Thailand, one of the biggest exporters of natural rubber and sugar, use paraquat to kill weed on palm, rubber, sugarcane, corn, and cassava plantations.

“Without paraquat, Thai farmers will face losses in key crops, because there are no alternatives,” said Sukan Sungwanna, secretary-general of the Federation of Safe Agriculture.

Thai farmers use chlorpyrifos to kill worms on fruit, but can use alternatives.

The farmers’ group last week submitted a petition to an administrative court to repeal the ban, which came into force on Monday after the chemicals were added to a Type 4 list on Thailand’s Hazardous Substance Act last month.

That means their production, import, export, distribution and possession are banned. Flouting the rule could mean up to 10 years in jail or a fine of one million baht ($31,575.62), or both.

Thailand is also drafting regulation to impose a zero tolerance policy on imported crops produced using the chemicals, sparking concern among local industry groups.

The food and livestock industries rely on wheat and soybean imports, mostly from the United States and Brazil and they have asked the Thai government to instead maintain limits on maximum allowable chemical residues.

In November, Thailand reversed a ban on the herbicide glyphosate, allowing its use to continue within maximum residue limits (MRL) after the U.S. government asked for the ban to be postponed.

Non-profit group BioThai said human health should come before business.

“The ban is a transition to sustainable agriculture,” said Witoon Lianchamroon, the group’s director.

Reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat; editing by Barbara Lewis

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