Ginger and chilli are among the plants deemed “hazardous” by Thailand’s Department of Agriculture in a recent announcement.
Instead of only regulating the toxic pesticides used by large-scale agriculture, Thailand’s new law mandates that the plants themselves should be treated as hazardous substances. Farmers take this to mean that even their small-scale organic farms must follow expensive safety regulations, or else face risk of jail time.
Organic farmers are fighting back and threatening to sue the government if the list is not removed from the law.
“The committee listed the 13 traditional Thai herbs without consulting those who would be hardest hit, who are the farmers, not large-scale hazardous chemical pesticide producers,” said Witoon Lianchamroon, founder of an NGO organic farmer association called Biothai.
Biothai, the Southern Alternative Agriculture Network, and other groups view the list as a direct manipulation of law to benefit large-scale agricutlure and hurt subsistence farmers, grassroots agriculture, and the organic movement. They have given the Thai government one week to retract the list before filing a lawsuit.
The 13 herbs and plants are vital in traditional Thai cooking and are clearly not hazardous: ginger, chilli, neem, lemongrass, turmeric, Chinese ginger, African marigold, Siam weed or bitter bush, tea seed cake, Chinese celery, ringworn bush, glory lily, and stemona.
Rachada Singalavanija, director-general of the Industrial Works Department, tried to assure the farmers that the law was not directed at them, but towards chemical and pesticide-using farms.Photo Credit: Harris Graber on Flickr under Creative Commons license.