Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Cambodia gets new laws to protect against chemicals

Cambodia gets new laws to protect against chemicals

Cambodia gets new laws to protect against chemicals

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Tracey Shelton

Attempts to regulate pesticide use may fall on deaf ears.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) is planning to draft a

pesticide control law to reduce the application of chemicals to crops grown in Cambodia,

a high-ranking official said.

Meanwhile the Ministry of Environment is behind another new law calling for organic

farming methods. The National Assembly on December 28 adopted the law on Living Modify

Organisms, which aims to improve the public health and environment through non-chemical

organic farming.

"We are very concerned with the use of the chemical products in the market,"

said Minister of Environment Mok Mareth.

"We will encourage the farmers to change their methods. Whether we can get success

depends on their participation."

Chan Tong Yves, secretary of state at MAFF, told the Post that more and more farmers

are using chemical poisons instead of natural fertilizers and pest control measures.

"With modern farming techniques, the use of chemical poisons is rising,"

Tong Yves said.

Tong Yves said that in 2000 MAFF had issued a sub-degree outlining standard materials

allowed in the importation of chemicals from neighboring countries. The subdecree

also stated that labeling must be translated into Khmer. But he said the enforcement

of the rule has not been effective.

Long Yan, director of environment at Kandal province, said his staff has tried many

times to dissuade villagers from using imported chemical pesticides if they can't

read the labels, but they use them anyway.

"It is difficult to stop them," Yan said. "They use by learning from

each other."

Some companies, Agrotech Co. and U-T 88, which import pesticides from Vietnam and

China, translate labels and directions for use into Khmer, but others don't.

Yang Saing Koma, president of the Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture,

said about 90 percent of farmers use poisons without an awareness of the potential

hazards.

He said his center has raised the issue many times with the Ministry of Agriculture,

but the MAFF doesn't have the resources to work on it. "It seriously affects

the health of users and consumers," he said. Farmers who grow corn, chili and

other vegetables in the Mok Kampol district of Kandal told the Post they must use

pesticides regardless of the risk.

"I got poisoned after I used pesticides without any protection and I drank a

half glass of wine," said local villager Noy Srean. "All the farmers in

the village use the same methods," he said.

Koma said his organization works with about 70,000 families in 1,850 villages nationwide

to promote more ecological farming methods but old habits die hard.

"It is very hard to change their habits," he said.

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