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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Japanese Pledge to Freeze Pesticide Aid

Japanese Pledge to Freeze Pesticide Aid

A leading campaigner against the use of pesticides in developing countries said he

had been assured by government officials that Cambodia was drawing up regulations

to control their sale, import and use.

Dr. Koa Tasaka, a representative from the Pesticide Action Network-Japan Committee,

met with senior government officials during a 14-day trip to Cambodia in July.

The doctor said he had also been told by the Japanese mission in Phnom Penh that

it would urge the government not to release a controversial shipment of Japanese-manufactured

pesticides donated to Cambodian farmers.

Dr. Tasaka's visit follows a symposium organized in Tokyo earlier this year by the

Japan International Volunteer Center (JVC), Japan Consumer Association and Japan

Tropical Forest Action Network to discuss the controversy over the Second Kennedy

Round aid or Japanese 2KR aid-a donation of 30 tons of insecticide to Cambodia.

The forum, which was attended by the chief of the Grant Assistance Department of

Japan's Foreign Ministry, laid down some recommendations on the issue, including

an appeal to the Japanese and Cambodian governments to freeze 2KR agricultural materials

currently stored in a warehouse in Phnom Penh. Cambodian-based NGOs have made similar

requests to the Japanese embassy.

Dr. Tasaka said that as a result of the public outcry and concern over the pesticide

shipment, the Japanese government has now recognized the dangers of the donation.

He said Japanese Ambassador to Cambodia Yukio Imagawa had told him that he would

send a letter to the Ministry of Agriculture, asking them not to distribute or use

the pesticides until the Japanese government sends agricultural experts to Phnom

Penh to conduct training here in the very near future.

JVC has listed the pesticide problem as one which needs urgent attention, said Hiroshi

Taniyama, a JVC representative.

With regard to the Japanese package, Taniyama acknowledged that it appeared the Japanese

government had halted the pesticide shipments to Cambodia pending the establishment

of a proper control system.

"They have to do the survey first and they said they did, but the documents

are not open to the public; nobody knows," he said.

Dr. Tasaka, who is a professor of chemistry from the International Christian University

in Tokyo, said he had witnessed on field visits to Bati and Phnom Penh districts

in Kandal province, farmers improperly using FOLIDOL, a type of canned agricultural

chemical, for their water melon farming.

Noting that no instructions in Khmer were printed on these pesticide containers,

the professor expressed great concern over the danger Cambodian farmers were being

exposed to.

"It's extremely poisonous, but farmers seem to have no knowledge about this

danger," he said, adding that he had also found FOLIDOL on sale at Chbar Ampow

market and that he believed this deleterious chemical is also available at other

markets in the country.

He said that because the farmers did not realize the danger, they threw away the

cans after using them, and children were picking them up and playing with them. If

children drank this chemical it would cause serious medical problems unless they

were referred to hospital immediately for appropriate treatment, he said.

The farmers who Dr. Tasaka met in the two districts he visited were not wearing masks

or any protection while spraying the pesticide. He said they risked damage to their

eyesight and nervous system if they continued to use the chemicals for a long time

in such an hazardous way.

Dr. Tasaka called on the World Health Organization and the Ministry of Health to

train doctors to check the levels of poison in the bloodstreams of farmers.

Another worry is the drinking water in rural areas, especially where pesticides are

heavily used. Some farmers drink water in the ponds or ditches adjacent to the paddies,

or, sometimes, even the paddy water itself.

When the pesticide enters the water system, it can kill fish and other aquatic animals

and it is very harmful if children bring them home to be used as food, he said,

JVC is planning to invite an expert on alternative agricultural methods to Cambodia.

"The best way to prevent poisoning is not to use pesticides, and promote alternative

methods that do not need pesticide," said the doctor. "There are such methods".

He said the Japanese expert will be talking through seminars to Cambodian agricultural

officials, extension workers and NGOs.

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