Paraquat needs to be tightly reg­u­lated, not banned

Stabroek News Sunday - - REGIONAL NEWS -

Dear Ed­i­tor, A num­ber of per­sons re­cently reached out to me ask­ing my sup­port for ban­ning gramox­one. In the call for ban­ning gramox­one, the tar­get is the ban­ning of paraquat. The rea­son is that this chem­i­cal is the most fre­quently-used weapon for deaths caused by sui­cide. While, most of these ad­vo­cates call for ban­ning gramox­one, the ac­tive in­gre­di­ent is paraquat which is of­ten sold as gramox­one, su­per­zone, her­bixone, farmixone etc. In my pre­vi­ous ca­pac­ity as Min­is­ter of Health and Min­is­ter of Agri­cul­ture in Guyana, I fre­quently spoke, both in and out of Guyana, of the need for strict reg­u­la­tion of paraquat.

I first spoke about paraquat in 1973, as a young school teacher, at a time when paraquat-in­duced sui­cide deaths hap­pened far too of­ten in the com­mu­ni­ties where I grew up, played and worked. As a young teacher in 1973, sui­cide took the lives of at least three young peo­ple around me. Dur­ing my terms as Min­is­ter of Health and then as the Min­is­ter of Agri­cul­ture and dur­ing the times I served at the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion and the Pan Amer­i­can Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion, my po­si­tion re­mained what my po­si­tion was in 1973, as a then ide­al­ist young teacher.

My po­si­tion is that we must strictly reg­u­late the pro­cure­ment, stor­age and use of paraquat. Paraquat should not be sold or bought by just any­one. Laws must re­strict who can sell and buy these chem­i­cals. Gov­ern­ment has re­spon­si­bil­ity to en­sure aware­ness and ed­u­ca­tion for the safe stor­age and use of these chem­i­cals. My po­si­tion has never been the ban of paraquat. If you ban this prod­uct, there is still need for another chem­i­cal that must be at least as ef­fec­tive an agri­cul­tural pes­ti­cide as paraquat. Ban­ning of one pes­ti­cide can just re­sult in other pes­ti­cides be­com­ing sui­ci­dal weapons since there are many other pes­ti­cides used in agri­cul­ture that are far more toxic than paraquat. Paraquat is a ma­jor weapon in sui­cide not only be­cause of its tox­i­c­ity, but also be­cause paraquat is avail­able and eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble to peo­ple. It is for this rea­son that I have al­ways ad­vo­cated strict rules gov­ern­ing pro­cure­ment, stor­age and use of paraquat or any other agri­cul­tural pes­ti­cide as part of the strat­egy to pre­vent sui­cide.

When the PPP gov­ern­ment es­tab­lished the Pes­ti­cides and Toxic Chem­i­cals (Con­trol) Board, one of the rea­sons was that there needed to be tighter con­trol of what chem­i­cals en­tered Guyana, who could use them, when they could use them, how they must be stored etc. Safety was a prime rea­son for the es­tab­lish­ment of the Board. But we were acutely aware then that the in­ap­pro­pri­ate use of these chem­i­cals in the sui­cide path­way must be taken into ac­count.

In the lat­est move, the Gov­ern­ment of Guyana in 2016 listed paraquat (in all its forms) as a re­stricted chem­i­cal. This means that peo­ple can only pro­cure paraquat with the use of iden­ti­fi­ca­tion cards. Pre­vi­ously, rules were made that re­stricted who could im­port paraquat into Guyana and rules were en­forced where paraquat sales were re­stricted to reg­is­tered sale points. We have to con­tinue to make these rules stricter and vig­or­ously en­force them. In spite of rules of who could im­port and sell paraquat, there are still many sale points that are not reg­is­tered, con­tribut­ing to the il­le­gal traf­fick­ing of paraquat.

When I was Min­is­ter, both at

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Guyana

© PressReader. All rights reserved.