The Caribbean Voice is thrilled that the Pesticides and Toxic Chemicals Control Board (PTCCB) is planning to discontinue the use of all pesticides and toxic chemicals in Guyana. It is the hope of The Caribbean Voice that politics will not get in the way of this plan and that if there is a new Government after the March elections, this endeavour will not be ditched.
As has been pointed out by TCV and other stakeholders, toxic chemicals like paraquat absolutely need to be banned. And while promoting reduced pesticide use and more organic farming, the Ministry of Agriculture should also be aware that there are a set of pesticides, known as “organic pesticides” that are being used to replace the toxic poisons.
These “organic pesticides” occur naturally. For example, spinosad comes from the soil bacterium Saccharopolyspora spinosa. It can fatally scramble the nervous systems of insects. It’s also poisonous to molluscs. Synthetic compounds can also make it onto the list of safer pesticides, if they are relatively nontoxic combinations that include minerals or natural elements, such as copper or sulfur. But some naturally occurring substances, such as nicotine and arsenic are off-limits.
While farmers are being weaned off toxic chemicals and assisted in engaging in organised agriculture, they can still have access to the “organic pesticides”. The use of these far less toxic chemicals would mean that suicides by ingestion of pesticides can be reduced significantly since the chances of survival for those who ingest such pesticides would be much greater, especially if immediate action is taken. As TCV had previously pointed out, UWI toxicologist, Dr Verroll Simmons, has emphasised that such measures do exist.
Thus, the Ministry of Agriculture should offer training that would pass on to farmers especially, but others as well, these tips which can increase the chances of saving the life of anyone who ingests pesticides. As well, the Ministry should expand its programme for safe usage and storage of pesticides across Guyana and seek the partnership of saw millers, timber merchants and construction companies to ensure that storage cupboards are available at affordable prices for farmers across the nation. Businesses and international agencies may also be willing to offset costs or even donate the storage cupboards. The World Health Organisation collaborated with Sri Lanka in implementing a suicide prevention programme that included distribution of such storage receptacles.