(Beyond Pesticides, January 7, 2008) Sri Lanka started restricting the use of paraquat at the start of the new year and plans to have the herbicide completely banned within the next three years. According to Assistant Director of Agriculture K.B. Gunarathne, the decision was made in response to “the high rate of deaths due to paraquat poisoning caused by its inherent toxic properties.” Four to five hundred Sri Lankans die as a result of paraquat poisoning each year, and misuse of the herbicide is especially high in farming communities. Most paraquat poisonings occur as impulsive injections of chemical stored in or near the home, and injection of paraquat has a mortality around 65%, much higher than other agrochemicals. Also unlike other agrochemicals, Paraquat has no proven antidotes, and supportive care is relatively ineffective at preventing death. A substantial reduction of poisoning deaths is unlikely to be achieved by focusing solely on in hospital care.
Sri Lanka will phase out paraquat in a series of steps, the first of which took place on January 1, 2008. Starting this year, the maximum concentration of paraquat ions in paraquat formulations will be 6.5%. In October 2006, the Pesticide Registrar mandated a reduction in paraquat ion concentration from 20% to 6.5% and restricted the bottle size, but preliminary reports on the new formulation suggested that the mortality from poisonings would remain “well over 50%”. The Pesticide Technical and Advisory Committee also decided to require the amount of paraquat sold in 2008 not to exceed the level sold last year. By the end of the year, the phasing-out scheme will be finalized.
Pesticide Action Network (PAN) North America Executive Director Kathryn Gilje noted that “there was active presence at the December 2007 PAN International meeting from a Sri Lankan Women’s Federation and peasant farmers association that had been working on this issue. This is wonderful news!”
Paraquat, which has been in use worldwide for more than 60 years, attacks the green part of a plant, drying the leaves out to kill it without affecting the roots of crops below ground. It is the main ingredient in Swiss-based Syngenta’s Gramoxone – one of the world’s three most widely used weedkillers. Other countries have imposed restrictions on paraquat; for instance, in July 2007, the European Union banned the use of paraquat.
TAKE ACTION: Let the Bush Administration know that the United States should ban the toxic herbicide paraquat. Contact EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson and send an email to President Bush. Also let your elected members of Congress know how you feel. Contact your US Senators and US Representatives.
Source: Sri Lanka’s Daily News