Friday, February 13, 2009

Explanation on "hazardous" herbs doesn't wash

Officials back off herb listings
Published: 12/02/2009

The Department of Agriculture chief Somchai Charnarongkul held a press conference Thursday to apologise public for causing confusion after the Industry Ministry listed 13 widely used herbal plants as hazardous substances.

Mr Somchai insisted that the announcement on listing the plants as "hazardous substances type 1" under the 1992 Hazardous Substances Act was aimed at controling the commercialisation of the plants.

Why does commercialisation of the plants need to be controlled? And why does the control require that the plants be branded as hazardous? This doesn't compute.

Production of the plants for consumption in household or in local communities is not prohibited, he said.

The objective of the announcement is to prevent farmers from being fooled into buying products manufactured from the herbal plants that are sub-standard, he added.

Are farmers really that stupid? Once they buy a substandard organic pesticide, they're not likely to buy it again. The word gets around and substandard products get weeded out by the market. And even if they really are that stupid, what harm is there except they lose money and can't effectively eliminate pests? Where is the hazard?

He insisted that there is no motive behind the announcement, and that it is not meant to benefit any private or international companies.

Don't believe anything until you hear an official denial.

He also said that he has proposed the hazardous substances committee to amend the announcement.

On Wednesday, organic farming advocates threatened to take the Industry Ministry to court if it refuses to revoke its decision to list the 13 herbs as hazardous plants.

The herbs include chili, lemon grass, turmeric, ginger and neem.

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