Cambodia Seeks to Tighten Regulations on Pesticide Use
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia Cambodia must tighten its policy regarding pesticide use in farming, which poses serious risks not just for public health and the environment but also for trade with other countries, officials said Friday.
The warning came at the end of a two-day national conference on pesticide management, which started Thursday in the capital Phnom Penh. It aims to gather information and recommendations for proposed legislation to manage use of the chemicals in agriculture.
"Cambodia is the easiest place" compared to other countries to use toxic pesticides because it lacks legal restrictions, Chea Chan Veasna, an Agriculture Ministry official, said Friday.
In the absence of such laws, Cambodia has become an open market for various kinds of pesticides, many of which are highly toxic.
Agriculture Minister Chan Sarun said pesticides were a "very popular" means of increasing crop output, but posed serious health risks to farmers who lack proper protective gear.
Long-term effects of exposure to pesticides, by handlers and consumers, are believed to include damage to brain nerves, infertility, genetic mutations and cancer.
"This is a critical issue for the people," Chan Sarun said.
The government has banned 116 pesticide brands regarded as highly toxic from being used in Cambodia. But the bans are only administrative warnings and carry no legal penalties.
However, brands such as mevinphos, dichlorvos and methyl-parathion, which are banned in their countries of origin outside Cambodia and identified as highly hazardous by the U.N. World Health Organization, are being smuggled wholesale across Cambodia's porous borders.
Chea Chan Veasna said current measures lack legal power, and that the ministry is working to introduce strict licensing procedures and regulations for the import, use, storage and disposal of pesticides.
A statement distributed at the meeting said the impact of pesticides on food safety and water resources remains largely unknown because Cambodia lacks facilities for testing pesticide residues.
Having such facilities is important not only for public health and environmental protection, "but also to control pesticide residue levels in produce for export," it said.
Tsukasa Kimoto, the country representative of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, warned that unnecessary delays by the government to enforce tough policy on pesticide use "may translate into health, environmental and trade risks" for Cambodia.
Researchers say that beside harming farmers and consumers, the pesticide deluge is beginning to degrade such ecosystems as the Tonle Sap, Southeast Asia's largest lake and a crucial source of protein for Cambodians. The lake harbors some 500 fish species and a rich bird life.
Source: Associated Press