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| 16 December, 2017

Lebanese minister raps removal of ban on pesticides

Public Health Minister Wael Abu Faour fired a warning in response to the agriculture minister’s defense of the decision to lift a ban on previously prohibited agricultural products.

Image used for illustrative purpose.
Farmers work at an agricultural field in al-Khiam village near the Israeli border in south Lebanon October 9, 2014.

Image used for illustrative purpose. Farmers work at an agricultural field in al-Khiam village near the Israeli border in south Lebanon October 9, 2014.

REUTERS/Ali Hashisho
BEIRUT -  Public Health Minister Wael Abu Faour fired a warning Friday in response to the agriculture minister’s defense of the decision to lift a ban on previously prohibited agricultural products. Addressing Agricultural Minister Ghazi Zeaiter, Abu Faour said, “Cancel the decision, and we will be with you, your excellency. The scientific consensus is very clear, and your natural position is with the citizens and their health, not the traders and their appetites.”

Abu Faour, who launched the initiative in 2016 along with then-Agriculture Minister Akram Chehayeb, was referring to statements made by Zeaiter during a televised news conference earlier in the day to clarify the ministry’s move to lift the ban.

“This conference is not meant to respond to anyone [personally] but to clarify why we decided to remove the ban,” Zeaiter said. The minister noted that science had been the primary driver behind the decision. “Scientific studies showed that these pesticides were not harmful but actually necessary,” he said.

He also claimed that other developed countries, such as the U.S. and some in Europe, use these pesticides in their agricultural sectors.

Zeaiter assured viewers that the decision to lift the ban on 18 agricultural products, which was announced Wednesday, was taken in line with his goal to promote citizens’ well-being in the country.

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“My priority and concern is the health and safety of the Lebanese,” he said. “If at a later date it is proven that my decision harmed people, I will apologize.”

Abu Faour hit back by saying, “I have acknowledged that some agricultural fertilizers are harmless, some of which are used in other countries of reference, under strict supervision and guidance from their ministries of agriculture. Is it truly possible for our Agriculture Ministry to be able to monitor the quantities used by farmers?”

Some 45 pesticides were banned in Lebanon in June 2016 after a joint commission was formed to monitor agricultural products and whether or not they met international standards. The commission came in response to rising cancer rates in Lebanon, believed to be caused in part by carcinogenic agricultural products.

While 18 of the agricultural products were reapproved for use, almost 30 others remain banned pending further research into their potentially harmful effects. Such products are used on everyday foodstuffs as wide-ranging as wheat, sugar, chicken and meat.


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