Larry Wong, Institute of Strategic and International Studies, Malaysia
K.L. Heong, International Rice Research Institute, Los Baños, Philippines
In January 2011 ADB, IRRI and FAO sponsored a workshop on “Rice Planthopper Problems and Insecticide Use – Developing Sustainable Interventions, Structures and Policies” in Bangkok, Thailand. Delegates from 8 ASEAN member countries, FAO and IRRI discussed the current state of insecticide abuse in rice, increases in insecticide imports, wrong selection of insecticides, proliferation of trade names, advertising and promotional schemes. It was clear that pesticides have been sold as FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) and this has exasperated the misuse. Insecticides are sold in many mixtures and trade names, causing confusion among farmers and seriously affecting their rational selection. In developed countries, pesticide sales and distribution are regulated and advertisements and promotional schemes controlled. Using the supply chain approach, the 8 ASEAN country teams gathered data for analysis and discussions in the “Pesticide Supply Chain – Data and Information Synthesis” workshop held in Hanoi, 14-15 December, 2011.
Both supplier of pesticides and related information on pest management follow similar paths. The main pest management advisors to rice farmers are the local retailers. In Song Phi Nong district, Suphan Buri, all farmers who had hopperburn obtained their advice from the local pesticide retailer, whom they refer to as their “doctor”. Similarly farmers in several other Thai provinces as well as in Indonesia seem trapped into a continuous misuse trend that will weaken ecosystem services and induce more hopper outbreaks.
Workshop participants were in complete agreement that planthopper outbreaks are induced by insecticide misuse. The rampant misuse is the result of weak pesticide marketing regulations that have allowed pesticides to be sold as FMCGs and distributed by retailers with little or no technical knowledge of the products. Realizing the root cause of the pest outbreaks, the workshop developed a set of 7 recommendations to curb insecticide misuse. These were:
- In cognizance of the cross-border nature of both plant hopper migration and flow of pesticides (both formal and informal), we should strive towards including “Threats of Insecticide Misuse to Rice Ecosystems and Regional Food Security” into the ASEAN Minister of Agriculture Forum (AMAF) agenda via special SOM (Senior Officials’ Meeting).
- Individual countries as well as ASEAN as a whole, under AMAF, should work towards the banning of pyrethroids and organophosphates, their mixtures and other insecticides that are conclusively found by focused research to be linked to plant hopper outbreaks, for use in rice production.
- Individual countries and pesticide industries should work towards being compliant with the FAO Code of Conduct.
- Work towards harmonizing pesticide regulations, especially those relating to advertising, transport and marketing, in ASEAN.
- Mainstream the threats of insecticide misuse and misinformation on food security and sustainable rice farming as well as how to maintain or restore ecological resilience – highlighting ecosystem services as a public good. Relatedly, coordinate public and private sector’s as well as civil society’s efforts in disseminating related information at both the National and Regional levels.
- Recognizing the extent of insecticide misuse and misinformation, prioritize the strengthening of regulations and enforcement.
- Regulate pesticide information through certification programs of retailers and information providers.
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