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Researchers Say Toxic Pesticides Poisoning Indonesia's Farmers - Jakarta Globe
Last modified: 2010-11-14 22:31:42

As Indonesia hosts an international meeting on toxic and hazardous chemicals here, a nongovernmental organization said on Sunday that an increase in the country's pesticide use had resulted in the poisoning of farmers.

That claim was made by Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP) in its latest report, "Asian Regional Report on Community Monitoring of Highly Hazardous Pesticide Use." The report was released before the 11th Simultaneous Extraordinary Meetings of the Conference of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, which opens today and runs through Wednesday.

The study was conducted in 2008 in collaboration with local partner organizations from eight countries - Indonesia, Cambodia, China, India, Malaysia, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Vietnam - with 1,304 farmers as respondents. It found that 66 percent of the active ingredients in pesticides used on vegetables, cotton, paddy rice and other crops were highly hazardous, according to PAN International classification criteria.

In Indonesia, the study was conducted by Gita Pertiwi, a green group focusing on pesticide issues. The group interviewed 100 farmers in Wonosobo, Central Java, in 2008.

Rosanna Dewi, executive director of Gita Pertiwi, said all of the respondents said they had suffered health problems, ranging from mild headaches to fainting and diabetes.

"All of the respondents, 39 females and 61 males, have found themselves manifesting symptoms caused by pesticides, from nausea and headaches to more serious problems like diabetes and cancer," Rosanna said.

She said blood tests performed by health agencies had confirmed that 90 percent of the farmers had been poisoned by pesticides. She added that the problem was exacerbated by the rise in the different types of pesticides used in the country.

"In 2008, there were 1,702 kinds of pesticides [in Indonesia] coming from 353 companies. But now we have 1,822 from 273 companies," Rosanna said. "The reason the numbers keep increasing is that [farmers] are tempted by rewards for buying certain products, for example, offers of a hajj trip."

She added that farmers received little information on how to safely use of the pesticides.

"Based on FAO [UN Food and Agriculture Organization] standards, [farmers] should wear gloves, long sleeves, plastic coveralls and a hat, but they've always said it was too hot," she said, adding that women should not be allowed to spray pesticides because it put them at risk of reproductive health problems.

Rosanna said the herbicide Paraquat continued to be used in the country, mostly on palm oil plantations.

"The substance is already banned based on the Rotterdam [Convention], but unfortunately we have not ratified it yet. It is very effective in killing weeds, but it can cause cancer much more quickly than other substances," she said, adding that the Agriculture Ministry issued a ministerial regulation in 2007 that said only certified farmers could spray Paraquat.

PAN AP executive director Sarojeni Rengam said governments should phase out hazardous pesticides and phase-in non-chemical pest management approaches.

"Support needs to focus on the investigation, education and promotion of agro-ecological practices, biodiversity-based ecological agriculture and integrated pest management," Rengam said.

Fidelis E Satriastanti | February 21, 2010

Jakarta Globe

Keywords: Indonesia, pesticides, pestisida, poison, racun, petani, farmers, organic, organik
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