Use of toxic pesticide on coconut trees assailed
LUCENA CITY, Philippines—The environment group Greenpeace and coconut farmer groups have criticized the government’s use of the toxic pesticide neonicotinoids to combat the coconut scale insect (CSI) or “cocolisap” infestation that is threatening to wipe out the country’s coconut industry.
Romeo Clavo, head of the group Ugnayan ng Magsasaka sa Gitnang Quezon (Ugnayan), said they would prevent the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) from injecting the anti-pest chemical into their coconut trees until they are convinced it is safe for humans and the environment.
“The coconut is our only means of livelihood. We won’t let the government use it in its trial-and-error approach to combat the pest,” Clavo said.
Neonicotinoid has been classified as a “systemic insecticide” absorbed by every cell in a plant, which makes all its parts poisonous to pests.
Daniel Ocampo, Greenpeace Philippines campaigner for sustainable agriculture and genetic engineering, cited a report by the Worldwide Integrated Assessment (WIA) of the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which confirmed the harmful impact of pesticides, particularly neonicotinoids.
“The findings of the WIA are gravely worrying, especially in light of the active promotion of neonicotinoids by the PCA and the Department of Agriculture to address cocolisap,”Ocampo said.
A researcher from the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) Crop Protection Cluster, however, branded as baseless fears that coconut meat and its water would be contaminated with chemical pesticide.
“The probability of risk to humans and the environment is almost nil,” Dr. Celia Medina said by phone on Saturday.
She said the implementing protocols on the government’s war against cocolisap mandated the harvest of all nuts before the pesticide injection and prohibited harvesting within 60 days after injection.
Medina said the UPLB’s intensive experiments and laboratory analysis showed there was “no detectable residue”in the coconuts 51 days after injecting the tree with pesticide. “But to make it more safe, we made it 60 days in the protocol,” she said.
She said an infected coconut tree would be injected only once.
Medina said the PCA and UPLB researchers would take weekly random samplings of all injected trees as part of their monitoring of the safety of the pesticide.
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