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April 15, 2005

DANGEROUS HERBICIDE - Paraquat, the most deadly weed killer

Press Release

The Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP) is totally shocked to hear that the government has decided to reconsider the ban on Paraquat, which is the most deadly weedkiller, scheduled under Class 1(B) of the Pesticides Act 1974. The shocking and unbelievable decision was announced today in The New Straits Times (April 15,2005).

In the report, the Agriculture and Agro-Based Industries Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, said the Ministry has decided to review the ban after “presentations” were made to his ministry by small holders and “key” industry players.

“It is crystal clear that the Minister had caved in to the pressures and persuasions of these ‘small holders’ and ‘key’ Industry players, “comments PAN executive director, Sarojeni V. Rengam.

“We are disappointed at the recent development because the reconsideration of the ban on one of the most dangerous poisons in the world has serious implications vis-à-vis protection of workers and farmers health and rights to safe working environment. The ban should take effect in July this year, but the government’s action only goes to show that once again, the Industries profits overide the health considerations of the people.

When the ban was announced in 2003, NGOs, public interests groups, doctors and medical associations in Malaysia and other parts of the world had applauded the Malaysian government’s decision to ban and phase out the use of Paraquat. Now Malaysia’s reputation in the eyes of the world is at stake.

“We were the first country in Asia to announce the ban. This decision was taken by consultation with the different ministries based on human health concerns and because of available alternatives. What a shame that now the government has gone back on its word! Indeed, Malaysia Boleh!” states Rengam.

Paraquat is the most important product of Syngenta—the worlds’ biggest agrochemical company. The ban comes after more than ten years of struggle by PAN AP and local partner, Tenaganita, to end the continued poisonings suffered by plantation workers—especially pesticides sprayers who are mostly women.

In view of the current problem, we want the Minister to consider the following questions before the Cabinet makes a total decision on the ban of Paraquat.

1. The Pesticides Board is to be commended on the numerous and exhaustive steps and measures they have taken to consult the Pesticides and Palm Oil Industry, NGOs and the workers on the issue. Consultations and assessment done with various departments and Ministries within the government – Ministry of Health – which had also concurred on the ban.

Why are these consultations being ignored?

2. During the second round of consultations undertaken with the Ministry of Health, at the beginning of the 3rd year of the phase out, the outcome and recommendations of the session, was for the ban to stay.

What took place between that consultation session and now, that is so significant that the Ministry has suddenly gone back on its word and reversed its decision to stay the Paraquat ban?

3. In mid-2004, Datuk Shafie Hj Aqdal, Deputy Minister of Agriculture himself had asserted that there should be no more questions about the matter and that the ban has to stay. Also, all aspects of the issue were looked at by all the different departments and ministries.

Why has the Minister changed his mind? What is the rationale for the ban other than “presentations” made by small holders and “key” industry players?

4. Paraquat is not necessary. For example, Golden Hope plantation does not use Paraquat. It is business as usual for the company without the poison.

What is the excuse then for the Malaysian Palm Oil Plantation to call for the repeal of the ban?

Lastly, we are completely saddened that the Malaysian government has totally no regard for this year’s World Health Organisation’s Day which focuses on mothers and children, thumbed “Make Every Mother and Child Count”, who are the most important and basic unit of the nation.

“With this ban, it is crystal clear that the Malaysian government, who promotes the concept of “Caring Society”, is forsaking the proven health impacts of Paraquat, especially on women plantation workers and their children,” declares Rengam.

If the Paraquat ban is repealed, it is a sad and black day for justice, for farmers and agricultural workers, for women and children, who are the most oppressed and marginalised communities in the country.

For further information contact:

Sarojeni V Rengam, Executive Director, Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Asia and the Pacific, Penang, Malaysia. Tel: +604 657 0271/ +604 656 0381. Email:

Susan Loone, Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Asia and the Pacific, Penang, Malaysia. Handphone: +60 16-4133077 Email:

Jennifer Mourin, Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Asia and the Pacific, Penang, Malaysia. Tel: +604 657 0271/ +604 656 0381. Email:


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 Albert Einstein
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