Consumers Association of Penang

Giving voice to the little people...since 1970

Poisoning the World with Pesticides: Dawn of the Second “Silent Spring”

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A survey by the Consumers’ Association of Penang’s reveals that pesticides are still widely used in farms, threatening our natural ecosystems and farm environment. As consumers, we should not only be concerned of pesticide residues on the food we eat, but also pesticides’ widespread contamination and poisoning of the world.

Pesticides use is expanding in most regions of the world and the global market in 2012 was valued at about US$40 billion. At present there are about 800 pesticide active ingredients in use globally and these are formulated into many thousands of products that may contain more than one active ingredient.

Pesticides are chemicals designed to be toxic to living organisms. Needless to say, in almost all parts of the world, low-level poisoning of human beings due to pesticide contamination of food poses a risk of chronic illness and adverse health effects. Among the health problems are cancer, neurological, respiratory and dermatological diseases.

Pesticides are non-selective, they kill pests as well as beneficial insects that consume the pests and keep pest populations down. In addition, indiscriminate use of pesticides has resulted in the decline of pollinators such as honeybees and subsequently yield potential of crops is reduced.

The Task Force on Systemic Pesticides comprising a group of 29 scientists found unequivocal evidence from hundreds of published studies to claim that neonicotinoids, the most widely used insecticides in the world, are having a dramatic impact on the ecosystems that support food production and wildlife. Besides insects and earthworms, so many birds are dying that National Geographic says it could be a second "Silent Spring".

This recently launched landmark report titled “Worldwide Integrated Assessment of the Impact of Systemic Pesticides on Biodiversity and Ecosystems” concluded that even when neonicotinoids were used according to the guidelines on their labels and applied as intended, the chemicals' levels in the environment still frequently exceeded the lowest levels known to be dangerous for a wide range of species—and were "thus likely to have a wide range of negative biological and ecological impacts."

Concerned of the growing problem of pests and extensive use of pesticides in Malaysia, CAP had invited Mr Neeravi Selvam, an advocate of integrated pest management and skilled in various crop production techniques. Mr Neeravi Selvam from Tamil Nadu, India will guide farmers in Penang, Perak and Selangor to move towards pesticide-free farming. He will also share with us his expertise in controlling household pests.

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Rather than using pesticides, the preferred options to control pests would be to practise natural/organic farming, diversifying and rotating crops, inter-row planting, planting timing, tillage and irrigation, using less sensitive crop species in infested areas, using trap crops and applying biological control agents.

In Malaysia, we need regulations to ban the use of pesticides, starting with the hazardous ones. A study should be carried out on what is hampering large-scale adoption of sustainable agriculture practices such as natural and organic farming as the current pace is too slow. The government should then formulate policies, clear strategies and incentives for farmers to move towards natural or organic farming.

We are condemning our future generations by continued use and reliance on pesticides. Let us all move towards a pesticide-free world for the sake of humanity and the environment.

 

Press Conference, 26 August 2014