Chemical-free farming

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    TRACES of Chlorothalonil and Mancozeb were found by the Pesticide Action Network-Philippines (Pan-ap) to be present in three upland elementary and secondary schools in Davao City, according to a news report published by Sunstar Davao.

    The three identified schools with traces of the two pesticides were Vinzons Elementary School in Manuel Guianga, Tugbok District, Ma. Cristina P. Belcar Agricultural School (formerly Baguio High School of Agriculture) in Tawantawan, Davao City, and Baracayo Elementary School in Daliao Plantation.

    The two chemicals are among the 20 pesticides in the hazardous list maintained by the Malaysian-based environmental group. Chlorpyrifos, Monocrotophos, Malathion, Methamidophos, DDT, Permethrin, Diazinon, Paraquat, Propoxur, Atrazine, Dichlorvos, Cypermethrin, Deltamethrin, Methyl parathion, Carbaryl, Parathion, Lambda-cyhalothrin, and Maneb comprise the other 18 pesticides.

    Ann Fuertes, executive director of Interface Development Interventions (IDIS) was quoted as saying, “In the water and air monitoring studies that IDIS has conducted in an elementary school and two high schools in the uplands, we have also found traces of Chlorpyrifos and Diazinon. The others on this list are also registered pesticides in the country, meaning they are also being sold here.”

    IDIS reported that pesticide use is now pegged at 2.3 million tons, or 50 times more than in 1950. While chemical inputs help increase farm production, their continued use and over-use threaten the people’s health. In a news report I wrote a few years back, the National Crop Protection Center found that vegetables, fruits and other produce sold in the market in the country were spiked with pesticide residues over the limits prescribed by the World Health Organization.

    The Environment Management Bureau (EMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources stressed that many farmers remain “hooked” on the chemical pesticides whose use not only harms fertility of their farms in the long run but also eats into their profits.

    EMB added that insect species which attack food crops in the country are becoming resistant to the insecticides being used against them forcing farmers to double the amounts being sprayed contaminating more farm produce with the chemicals.

    Recently, however, the use of natural pesticide is gaining ground among Mindanao farmers. Spearheaded by the government and concerned agencies, farmers — especially the marginal ones — are being encouraged to grow and use botanical plants whose saps have been found as effective pest control.

    Among the botanicals whose extracts have been found as effective natural pesticides are the red pepper or “sili” (Capsicum frustescens), “tubli” or “tibanglan” (Derris spp.), “madre de cacao” or “kakawate” (Gliricidia sepium), and “makabuhay” (Tinosphora linii).

    Some farmers in Bansalan, Davao del Sur broadcast fresh leaves of the kakawate on their fields at the rate of 1-5 kilograms per 100 square meters. The system prevents armyworms, cutworms, rice bugs and whorl maggots from infesting the fields for a week.

    In Cotabato, farmers are using tubli. The roots are twisted until about arm-size and footlong. They are buried in the soil for a week then pounded with the sap collected used as a natural insecticide.

    The same farmers employ fresh tobacco leaves in combination with the tubli sap and half a liter of kerosene with such a mix effectively controlling plant pests. It’s high time to minimize if not stop altogether the use of chemical pesticides.

    “Wars and natural disasters strike swiftly, inflicting their punishment in a manner that is unmistakable and spectacular,” wrote Elizabeth Dowdeswell, former executive director of the United National Environment Program.

    “In contrast, the unnatural disaster caused by chemical toxins is slow and ambiguous. Damaged chromosomes and brewing cancers remain unseen for years. The maladies strike at random, without a clear indication of cause and effect.”

    Dr. Romeo Quijano, Pan-ap president, agrees. “Pesticides and other toxic contaminants in air, water, and food have emerged as important causal factors for various developmental abnormalities, cancers and other diseases suffered by children.

    Hardly any person or any place on earth is left uncontaminated and not poisoned to some degree by these toxic chemicals,” he points out.

    Are you listening?

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