Sumifru belies operation causes toxic pesticides contamination in Davao City

A pineapple plantation in Davao City. MindaNews file photo

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 24 February) – Saying it is a victim of misinformation, multinational agricultural firm Sumifru Philippines Corporation has belied that its operation here has caused the contamination of residents living near pineapple plantations with toxic pesticides.

In an emailed statement on Thursday, Melvin Languido, Sumifru’s manager for food safety, occupational safety and environment, stressed that the company “has placed strong emphasis on integrity and ethical behavior in its agribusiness venture.”

Languido clarified that it has no pineapple business operation in Davao City, as claimed by a representative of non-government organization Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability (IDIS), Inc.

The company was reacting to a story published by MindaNews last February 20, which was based on the result of the study conducted by Wonjin Institute of Occupational and Environmental Health (WIOEH) in South Korea.

The study showed that house dust and residents living near monocrop pineapple plantations in Baguio District have tested positive for traces of highly toxic pesticides.

“We have worked tirelessly to maintain the trust of our customers and the public, and it is deeply troubling to us that false information has been circulated that undermines our credibility and hard-earned reputation,” Languido said.

MindaNews earlier tried but failed to get the side of Sumifru.

Lemuel Lloyd Manalo, IDIS program coordinator, told MindaNews the samples were taken from a community closely situated to the pineapple plantations, including “those owned by growers supplying bananas to Sumifru.”

Manalo admitted that it is difficult to trace the source of the contaminants, unless the large growers would make their “formulations” available to the public.

Earlier, he noted the scope of their study was limited only to the immediate environs of the pineapple plantation operated by the Davao Agricultural Ventures Corporation  (DAVCO) and other nearby pineapple farms.

He said that there is a big possibility that the source of contaminants came from large pineapple plantations, since the highest concentration of the pesticides were detected from samples within the “Group 1,” composed of residents living within the 30-meter radius from those monocrop plantations.

He said they also took samples from residents living 500 meters from the boundaries of the plantations.

Manalo said that parathion, a banned pesticide in the Philippines, was not detected in the agricultural inputs of small-scale farmers.

However, traces of parathion were detected in both dust and urine samples of residents living near large pineapple plantations, according to the study.

Based on the study, at least 22 pesticides banned or not approved for use in the European Union were found in the house dust and urine samples.

A press release issued by IDIS on February 22 said pyrethroid (3-PBA), parathion and chlorpyrifos were the top three pesticides detected from household dust and urine samples of residents near pineapple plantations at Brgy. Tawan-Tawan, Davao City.

“Parathion is a pesticide banned in the Philippines due to its high toxicity. This has long been banned by the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority since 1993,” it said. (Antonio Colina IV / MindaNews)