The 26-member committee, chaired by acting industry secretary-general Panuwat Tariyangkoonsri, made the decision to ban two herbicides – paraquat and glyphosate – and chlorpyrifos, a pesticide, yesterday (Oct 22) as around 500 farmers from several provinces opposing the ban were waiting outside.
Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul posted on Facebook the votes in favour of the ban against those for restrictions on use: 21-5 for paraquat, 19-7 for glyphosate and 22-4 for chlorpyrifos.
After hearing the results, Anchulee Lak-amnuayporn, a leader of the anti-ban farmers, told the disappointed protesters not to lose heart since they still had two options.
“We still have two options,” says Anchulee Lak-amnuayporn, a leader of anti-ban farmers.
They could file a petition to stop the ban with the Central Administrative Court and ask the committee to reconsider it with new evidence, she said.
The farmers want clarity on what choices they have to eliminate weeds after the ban comes into effect. They fear it could be expensive and add to their already-high costs.
Ms Anchalee said the other choice was to wait until Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha returns from his Japan trip. “We heard from our coordinators the prime minister ordered a forum with four groups present. So far, only three groups attended such forums,” she said.
On Oct 7, representatives of the government, farmers and consumers unanimously voted for the ban without representatives from the farm chemical businesses.
Meanwhile, the Safe Farming Confederation of 5 million households yesterday sought B820 billion in compensation from the government as a result of the ban, including payouts to cover the extra costs of hiring labourers to root out weeds.
The group also wants a debt moratorium for all farming households and fresh loans for machinery with the government subsidising the additional costs they will have to shoulder.
Sukan Sangwanna, secretary-general of the group, warned the government must prepare B250bn in compensation for farmers’ lost income and B570bn in lost export value, totalling B820bn.
“At the same time, the farming sector must use non-chemical substitutes [to kill weeds] for the sake of health and the environment. We therefore ask the government to compensate us for the extra labour costs of B1.2 trillion a year and to help us find workers to manually root out weed.
“If the authorities can’t do so, we’d like to see Agriculture Minister Chalermchai Sri-on and his deputy, Mananya Thaiset, pull out the weed themselves in 60 million rai in 30 days.”
He said the group wanted a moratorium on farm debts owed to the BAAC so they could seek new loans to pay for new machinery, with the government subsidising the cost differences for the purchases that exceed what they normally pay for paraquat.
He added post-ban measures remained sketchy and had never been tried in practice.
“We would like the authorities to set up a 500-rai model plot for economic crops where weed can be eliminated in one day.”
He added Oct 22 would go down in history as the doomsday when Thai farming collapsed because of “favouritism for traders of new chemicals and a conspiracy between politicians and NGOs”.
“The ban will be effective on December 1,” committee chair Panuwat Triangjulsri, of the Ministry of Industry, told reporters, noted a report by AFP.
Agriculture employs 40% of Thailand’s population and the Southeast Asian country is one of the world’s leading rice and sugar exporters.
It is also one of the biggest consumers of pesticides being banned or phased out in other parts of the globe because of links to a variety of illnesses, the report added.
Paraquat, a herbicide which the US Centers for Disease Control calls “highly poisonous”, has been banned in Europe since 2007.
Studies have linked the pesticide chlorpyrifos to developmental delays in children, while critics say the weedkiller glyphosate is a likely cause of cancer.
Farming organisations and the chemical industry have lobbied for the continued use of glyphosate, sold under the trade name Roundup made by Bayer subsidiary Monsanto.
In the US there are more than 13,000 lawsuits with plaintiffs claiming glyphosate caused different kinds of cancer even though it is widely used in agriculture there.
The company has suffered several defeats in court that it plans to appeal against.
Austria became the first European Union member to forbid all glyphosate use in July, with restrictions also in force in the Czech Republic, Italy and the Netherlands. France is phasing it out by 2023.
Vietnam banned all herbicides containing glyphosate soon after the Roundup cases in the US, but the decision was swiftly denounced by the US Secretary of Agriculture, who said it would impact global agricultural production.
Health Minister Anutin, who has argued the pesticides put lives at risk, praised yesterday’s move as “heroic” on his Facebook page even as several dozen farmers protested – a citing a rise in production costs.
“If we don’t have the chemicals to eradicate the weeds, we will have to use more labourers,” said Charat Narunchron of a farmers association in Chanthaburi province, who called the ban “unfair”.
Thailand’s Pesticide Alert Network – which has long advocated for the ban – thanked the government but said it needs to help farmers adjust to other methods.