The surge in online shopping and the exponential growth of Malaysia’s e-commerce market have inadvertently provided a platform for the sale of banned Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs), including paraquat, endosulfan, and profenophos. The Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (Panap) has unveiled its latest report, “Unboxed: Online Sales of Banned Pesticides in Malaysia,” highlighting the regulatory loopholes that have allowed for the illicit trade of these hazardous substances.
According to the Panap report, paraquat, endosulfan, and profenophos are among the 48 banned or restricted pesticides in Malaysia due to their severe adverse effects on human health and the environment. These pesticides have been linked to cancer, developmental disorders, diseases, and numerous fatalities. Moreover, their persistence in the environment poses a significant threat to animals and other organisms. Endosulfan is listed under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants and has been slated for elimination since 2011. Similarly, paraquat is a candidate for listing in the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade.
Panap’s investigation has uncovered that these banned HHPs, namely paraquat, endosulfan, and profenophos, are readily available for purchase on various e-commerce platforms operating in Malaysia. This blatant violation of Malaysian laws, particularly the 1974 Pesticides Act, and its associated penalties raises serious concerns.
Key findings from the report include:
- The banned pesticides are marketed under the brand names of major agrochemical companies, although these products may be counterfeit, undisposed stocks, or discontinued items, as their label designs differ from official company labels.
- Banned HHPs are sold in large quantities, with minimal restrictions on purchase or stockpiling.
- Online listings deliberately obscure the true nature and toxicity of the pesticides, with misspelled or blacked-out names of active ingredients.
- The descriptions and instructions provided for handling, use, or storage of these banned pesticides are inadequate, violating the International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management.
- Domestic distribution of banned HHPs originates from northern states such as Kedah, Penang, and Kelantan, while imports are sourced from countries like Vietnam, China, and Thailand, despite these origin countries having banned the pesticides themselves.
- User reviews indicate the frequent use of banned HHPs without proper personal protective equipment (PPE) in both domestic and farming settings.
Sarojeni Rengam, Executive Director of Panap, commented, “While national laws and international conventions exist to regulate pesticides, the enforcement of these regulations remains inadequate. Manufacturers, traders, and other opportunists continue to exploit unlicensed traders and e-commerce platforms to market banned pesticides, posing significant risks to human health and the environment. The Malaysian government must take strict measures to regulate these e-commerce platforms and their sellers, putting an end to the online sales of banned pesticides.”
Panap urges consumers to be vigilant about the hazards of toxic pesticides, report instances of irresponsible sales, and transition towards safer alternatives such as agroecological practices. Agroecology, which promotes farming practices that replace toxic chemicals with nature-friendly methods, must be recognized, prioritized, and supported as a “good agricultural practice.” This approach not only ensures safer agricultural produce for local consumers and export markets but also guarantees a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment for farmers and their children. – The Sun
7 June 2023