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Malaysia Bans Toxic Herbicide
(from September 26, 2002)

The Malaysian government recently banned the pesticide paraquat. Effective August 27, 2002, registrations of products containing paraquat will be rejected. Those currently in the registration process will be stopped. In addition, there is to be no advertising of this chemical. The government's decision comes after being heavily lobbied by environmentalists, who pointed out its health hazards and the existence of viable, safe alternatives.

Paraquat is a broad leaf herbicide used on both large plantations and small farms. Used on a variety of crops including bananas, cocoa, coffee and cotton, it is the world's second largest selling agricultural chemical. Its manufacturer, Syngenta, claims it made possible the concepts of minimum tillage, conservation tillage and no-till farming" since it does not leach into water easily and increases crop yield. However, exposure to paraquat by those who work with it can cause blurred vision, kidney and skin damage, intestinal illness, breathing difficulties, and death due to lung injury.

A study in March 2002 by Pesticide Action Network of Asian Pacific and the Malaysian workers rights organization Tenaganita showed such health effects. It found women workers on plantations being poisoned by herbicides, especially paraquat.

Environmentalists would like to see a worldwide ban of this chemical. Non-governmental groups across the globe are putting pressure on Syngenta to halt production of paraquat. Syngenta recently opened a new paraquat manufacturing plant in China despite demands.