Stir bears fruit

Published: Thursday 31 October 2002

Perseverance pays. With the Malaysian government deciding to ban the herbicide paraquat, a long-standing campaign of environmental pressure groups has finally proved successful. Earlier, a wave of concern was raised by non-governmental organisations about the harmful effects of the chemical. The herbicide is used on bananas, cocoa, cotton, rubber and sugarcane -- both in plantations and small-scale farms.

With the clampdown, Malaysia has become the first southeast Asian country to halt the use of the chemical. The Pesticides Control Division of the agriculture department and the secretary of Malaysia's Pesticides Control Board has clearly stated that all applications to register or re-register paraquat will now be rejected.

Following the ban, Swiss agribusiness firm Syngenta, which produces paraquat and markets it as Gramoxone, is under attack from non-governmental organisations. Industry claims that the herbicide increases crop yield, raises productivity, reduces extensive manual labour and does not leach into groundwater. But environmentalists contend that the chemical damages the kidneys, affects sight and skin, triggers intestinal illness and lung injury.

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