YANGON — Local farmers and civil society organizations in northern Shan State called on the government to do more to prevent illegal pesticides and herbicides, often imported from China, from damaging land and affecting people’s health in the area at a land and environmental conference in Lashio on Saturday.
“Chinese-made insecticides and herbicides need greater inspection,” urged Khun Phone, Pa’O officer-in-charge of the Reserved Land and Environmental Organization based in Kutkai Township, one of more than 100 attendees from 12 townships across northern Shan State.
He described widespread damage to the soil, saying that even grass could not survive in some areas.
According to testimony at the conference, the pesticides and herbicides in question are illegal in Myanmar but are readily available at local markets.
Locals cannot understand the instructions of the imported products—often written in Chinese—and misuse and overuse the chemicals, said Khun Phone
“According to my observations, soil has been damaged and locals are facing health problems and allergic reactions due to the chemicals’ usage,” Kachin social worker Phaw Nong, who is working in research and advocacy on agriculture in northern Shan State, told The Irrawaddy.
Attendees of the discussion agreed on a statement addressing the problems and possible solutions that also called for a seed bank to preserve genetic diversity of crops, and the participation of locals, farmers, and land rights in assisting the government to enact the Land Law.
Khun Phone said a collection of local seeds was needed as farmers continue to import seeds from China with a higher yield, meaning local species could be lost.
Phaw Nong said that varieties of Shan corn and Shan rice seeds were now hard to obtain and the state government should be responsible for preserving a genetic seed collection.
“It is too dangerous to depend on another country for our agricultural sector,” he said.
Participants of the conference also called on the government to regulate a proper local market for produce protected from inflated prices due to agricultural exports to China.