Banana exporters ask Senate to make 'scientific study' on effects of aerial spray

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/04 December) — Despite their woes over Iran’s ban on their produce, banana exporters have found time to take another snipe at the campaign to stop aerial spraying in their plantations.

The exporters, led by former North Cotabato vice governor Emmanuel Pinol, have urged the Senate committee on agriculture and food to initiate a “scientific” study on the effects of aerial spray on workers and affected communities, dismissing earlier studies by the country’s leading toxicologists as “mere hearsay.”

“The campaign against aerial spray has become mainly a ‘he says, she says’ story,” Pinol said towards the end of the Senate committee hearing Thursday to look into the impact of the US embargo on Iran on Philippine bananas.

“There has been no scientific study on the effects of aerial spray,” Pinol said.

“Now that banana plantation owners believe their operations have been adversely affected by the aerial spray ban, we would like the government to create a committee to come up with a scientific study on its effect on health,” he said.

“It’s fine to face the problem squarely and come up with a scientific study to prove what we are saying,” he added.

“It’s better for government to ask the banana workers exposed to the spray drift everyday, why they, their children and grandchildren are still very much alive up to this day,” Rodolfo Villanueva, a leader of a cooperative in Santo Tomas, Davao del Norte, also said during Thursday’s hearing.

The Department of Health (DOH) earlier released a study which showed how aerial spraying in banana plantations largely compromised the community’s health. The DOH study prompted the Davao City Council to pass an ordinance banning aerial spray.

Big banana growers and exporters, however, contested the ordinance in court.

The DOH said that there is “voluminous evidence” that pesticides used in aerial spraying cause various health effects to workers and communities living near plantations.  It also explained that “drift is unavoidable whenever pesticides are applied. Based on existing studies, drift is greatest from aerial applications, where almost 40 percent of pesticides applied is lost to drift. In this case, the residential areas and schools near the plantations are exposed to considerable risks to the effect of drift because of the location.”

Earlier, Dr. Romeo Quijano, a leading toxicologist at the University of the Philippines, also came up with the study on the diseases in the areas surrounding banana farms in Guihing, Digos, Davao del Sur.

Quijano brought up cases of the ill effects of pesticide exposure to health in communities near the banana plantations but his study only exposed him to harassment and libel cases in court. (Germelina Lacorte/Mindanews)