Ubon Ratchatani, Thailand, 24 November 2009 – As the 9th National Plant Protection Conference begins today in Ubon Ratchatani province, northeastern Thailand, the Alternative Agriculture Network – Esan (AAN) has prepared a statement on the current crisis surrounding the use of agrochemicals in our food system. For more background information, please read our recent reports on Carbofuran and Kudchum District.
In meeting with agrochemical company representatives at this conference, Thailand’s agricultural researchers and government representatives are neglecting their role in controlling the import and use of pesticides and other agrochemicals. The Ubon Ratchatani provincial strategy for economic development points out that it will “develop organic agriculture,” and both Yasothon and Sisaket have organic farming in their provincial “visions.” Roi Et, Surin and other Esan provinces also have organic farming policies.
It must be that these researchers are not interested in organic agriculture or they don’t see the importance of the national agricultural policy and Esan provincial strategies. Between January and September of 2008, Thailand imported over 99 million kg of agrochemicals. More than 10 million kg of carbofuran is imported annually.
The current controversy surrounding the planned distribution of 41 tons of suspected Carbofuran in Kudchum district, Yasothon province has come to represent the progressiveness of AAN farmers and our allies. Importantly, this controversy has also displayed the backwardness of provincial bureaucrats, given the corruption inherent in their proposed “natural disaster” project.
The AAN has met with farmers who use these chemicals on food crops – including rice, beans, watermelons, eggplant and chili. We have met many farmers that have lost family members due to chemical use. The majority of these imported chemicals stay in our water and plants for a long time. This kind of chemical use is not equal, as producing countries in Europe and the U.S. sell these chemicals in Thailand, but don’t use them themselves. The choice to import chemicals without knowledge of their impacts or responsibility on behalf of corporations exemplifies the great equality that still exists between northern and southern countries. Chemicals produced by Bayer in Germany are not used there and shouldn’t be used in other countries. Chemicals produced by Monsanto in the U.S. are not used there and should not be used in other countries.
Government representatives say that we cannot stop using these chemicals because we have nothing to replace them with. But this is said make people “lost” – policies need to be derived from the facts about the risks and impacts of these chemicals. We don’t need to replace chemicals; we need real change in our food system. We need to start producing a diversity of crops and developing safe, local markets.
Thailand must ban the use of agrochemicals currently on the “Dangerous Chemicals Watch List,” many of which are banned in other countries. For example, Thailand must ban the use of paraquat and carbofuran. Second, Thailand must strictly put into practice its laws regarding dangerous chemicals. We need measures to control the advertisement and sales promotion of agrochemicals. Third, to the media, consumers and general population, we need to come together and reject chemicals and the socially and environmentally irresponsible corporations that produce them. We need to come together and create a safe, local food system.
The AAN has successfully developed sustainable agriculture systems for small-scale producers and continues to defend community food security. We will continue to monitor government policies and demand accountability and transparency from those responsible for controlling agrochemicals in Thailand.
Alternative Agriculture Network – Esan