Published: Sunday 15 April 2001

Nearly 50 Costa Rican groups -- including farmers, environmentalists, labour unions and social organisations -- have voiced concerns about the use of paraquat, a herbicide that is responsible for many deaths. The organisations have demanded resignation of president Miguel ngel Rodrguez. They have also asked that the health, agriculture and environment ministers to step down. They want the government to sign an executive decree banning the registration, sale or use of the herbicide. The groups, led by Foro Emaus are also demanding that people's participation should be encouraged while making decisions regarding national policy on the use of pesticides.

According to the National Poison Control Centre, between 1996 and 1999, the herbicide has been linked to nearly 550 deaths through accidental ingestion or work-related exposures. "There is no effective treatment for it," says Hernn Hermosilla, a member of Foro Emaus. In Costa Rica, it is sprayed on bananas, despite the fact that it figures in the World Health Organisation's 'Dirty Dozen' list of substances that are considered highly toxic and the use of which is prohibited or restricted in some countries.

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