In recognition of the negative effects of pesticides on human health, the environment and banning of highly hazardous pesticides, the Ministry of Agriculture is banning the importation, sale, and use of the herbicide Paraquat and the Imidacloprid insecticide in Fiji.
Minister for Agriculture, Dr. Mahendra Reddy said the hazardous chemicals are being banned due to the extreme effects evidently caused by the two substances.
“This ban is imperative due to a number of factors; Paraquat will be banned because of its effect on human health, exposure to paraquat causes short-term health effects such as injury to the eyes, nosebleeds, irritation, and burns to the skin and other parts of the body.
“The World Health Organization has classified the toxicity level of Paraquat as Class II which is moderately hazardous; but there is a notion to believe it should be among the Class I because of its acute toxicity, delayed effects and the lack of an antidote,” said Dr Reddy.
“Exposure, even to relatively low doses, during critical periods in childhood, may adversely affect the development of brain functions and it has been found to also cause cancer and decreases testosterone,” he added.
Additionally, Paraquat was the second most commonly used means of suicide, involving 117 cases which equates for 21 percent of total suicide cases and also accounted for 27 percent of attempted suicides, 144 cases in total in Fiji from 2014-2018.
The environmental impact posed by Paraquat included its extreme toxicity to plants, animals and the aquatic environment.
“Paraquat is moderately toxic to birds and can affect reproduction or the hatchability of eggs. Freshly sprayed plants are poisonous to dogs, hares, cattle, and sheep and have also been used to deliberate poison dogs. It is also toxic to some soil fungi and bacteria, and increases the population of some soil pathogens,” said Minister Reddy.
Twenty-two different species of weeds in 13 countries have also been found to have become resistant to paraquat.
Minister Reddy also highlighted that in determining the banning of the insecticide Imidacloprid, the reason for the prohibition of its use was linked to the harmful effect it had on apiculture.
“They are harmful to bees as they are systemic chemicals that are absorbed into the plant system. When applied to plants weeks prior to the blooming of the flower, these insecticides contaminate the pollen and nectar which are toxic to bees that feed on it.
“Bees that encounter these pesticides contaminate the beehive and it affects their navigation and traces of these insecticides have been found in honey,” said Minister Reddy.
As alternatives to paraquat, farmers can use these available chemicals in the local market; Glufosinate Ammonium, Quizalofop-P-ethyl and a lower dosage rate of Glyphosate with the corresponding use of a spray shield to prevent drifting.
Since 2012, the Fiji Sugar Corporation has banned the use of paraquat on sugarcane farms in Fiji, instead, sugarcane farmers are now using Glyphosate, Diuron, Amine and Valpar for weed control and it is advisable that crop farmers do likewise.
A number of insecticides are available locally as alternatives for Imidachloprid insecticides such as Multi-Guard 1.8 EC, Superguard, Bifenthrin, and Chlorpyrifos.
The Ministry is currently working with pesticide dealers to identify other alternatives, to register them and make them available for Fijian farmers.
The Cabinet, noting a submission from Ministry of Agriculture, has endorsed the recommendation to ban the importation, sale and use of Paraquat and Imidacloprid from 01 January 2020.