While herbicides containing two toxic compounds have been banned in Vietnam since February, a company has been found being able to continue selling weedkillers having these illegal agents as their ingredients thanks to a ‘special permit’ from the country’s plant protection watchdog.
In February 2017, Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development confirmed that 2,4D and Paraquat, found in a wide variety of weedkillers popular with farmers across the Southeast Asian country, are dangerous substances that may cause severe damage to human organs, promote formation of cancers, and lead to serious environmental consequences.
The ministry therefore removed four 2,4D-containing herbicides, and 46 weedkillers with Paraquat among their ingredients, from the list of authorized plant protection products in the country.
Enterprises were given two years to empty their stock of the herbicides before the ban took effect on February 8, 2019.
However, one herbicide producer has been granted an unusual exemption from the ban, with their plant protection products containing 2,4D and Paraquat allowed to be sold on the market until the end of September 2019, according to data reviewed by Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.
Under a dispatch issued on March 15 by the Plant Protection Department under the agriculture ministry, Ho Chi Minh City-based An Nong Group is permitted to export their herbicides out of Vietnamese territory.
Products that have been already packaged for domestic sale and cannot be exported are also allowed to be sold in Vietnam until September 30 so long as the company submits a sales plan to the department for reporting, the dispatch said.
Le Van Thiet, deputy director of the Plant Protection Department who signed the dispatch, said the exemption was granted after a meeting between the authority and some herbicide businesses in February, when they agreed to give An Nong more time to empty their stock.
Huge discounts and a chance to win foreign trips have been offered by An Nong to promote sales of their herbicides containing the banned agents.
Dr. Nguyen Dang Nghia, director of the Tropical Agriculture Research and Consulting Center, said it is “unusual” that a government body gave a company extra time to sell extremely toxic products despite a ban in effect.
“Why is it that only one company gets to sell these products?” he questioned.
“Why do such toxic compounds continue to be sold despite their harmful effects on the environment and the agriculture minister’s commitment to developing a cleaner agro-industry?”
Paraquat has been banned in over 30 countries due to its lasting negative effects on the aquatic environment.
Exposure to Paraquat through skin contact, breathing or consumption can lead to poisoning and even death with no effective antidote.
In Vietnam, Paraquat had been used in dozens of different herbicides since 1993 until the ban.
Paraquat’s toxicity has also been exploited in many cases of suicide and homicide across the country.