Agricultural chemicals in Asian rice paddy wetlands

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The use of chemicals around the world is getting worse. On the one hand, a large part of the food intended for consumption depends on chemical agriculture, that is to say pesticides and fertilizers. The use of many of these chemicals is restricted because they threaten human health or have negative effects on the environment.

This brings us to the question of the safety of agricultural chemicals. This involves understanding what concentrations or doses lead to what impacts and what type of use leads to what type of pollution that can harm humans or the natural environment. This requires extensive testing to understand, among other things, whether the agricultural chemical has a toxic impact not only on users but also on the environment. Take note that pollution occurs not only during the production of chemicals, but also during the life cycle of the product and through waste.

The rice paddies of Asia as a source of global rice supply/rice cultivation are the pride of many Asian societies and play an important role in our cultural heritage. Asia is the source of one-third of the world’s rice supply from irrigated rice fields, representing a great deal of scientific research on food web interactions, insect damage economics, and more. pests and agronomic practices that impact the rice paddy ecosystem. .

Rice paddy wetlands have unique characteristics and their ecosystems are changing rapidly. Many rice-growing practices, as well as the series of stages that rice crops go through, have made rice paddies refuges for a wide range of plant and animal life. During the seed germination and seedling stages, flooded rice fields are the habitat of freshwater fish, amphibians, predatory birds and reptiles. When water is drained during the grain ripening phase, rice fields become attractive to many grain-eating animals, including birds, rats, mice as well as predatory reptiles and mammals. The cultivation and flowering stages promote the growth of weeds and attract a variety of insects, harmful or beneficial to rice crops.

The economic and ecological benefits of rice paddies are at risk of being lost through chemical pollution, saltwater intrusion as a result of climate change and concomitant sea level rise. Even more damaging is the rampant conversion rice fields to other uses such as human settlements, industrial and commercial sites.

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Rice paddy legislation

In Asian countries where there are legal provisions relating to rice paddies as constructed wetlands under the 1971 Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, the provisions are usually found in legislation on agriculture, land use, land, water resources, irrigation, agroforestry, fisheries, pesticides/fertilizers, hunting, fishing and wildlife. The reasons for this sectoral approach are more often historical or administrative than scientific or technical.

In the Philippines, agricultural policy has a vital objective – food security – which is addressed in the Modernization of Agriculture and Fisheries Act (RA 8435), the foundation of all agricultural policies. Despite its holistic approach, the law does not deal with the conservation of rice fields or the conservation of biodiversity in rice fields, but it does include provisions that call for reduced use of agrochemicals that are harmful to health and the environment.

The Philippines’ Agenda 21 stresses the need to strengthen germplasm and seed banks for species native to the Philippines and stresses the need to reintroduce the use of pest and disease resistant traditional varieties to reduce reliance on inputs inorganic chemicals in agriculture. When chemical inputs are reduced, genetic diversity flourishes. Thus, the Organic Agriculture Act 2010 recognizes the urgency of shifting to an organic farming model to move away from the excessive use of agrochemical inputs in conventional farming systems.

Japan’s Law for the Promotion of Nature Restoration promotes the revitalization of wetland functions in rice fields by focusing on agricultural wetlands in rice fields. In winter, waterfowl flock to the rice fields and excrete large amounts of manure which is valuable fertilizer for plant growth. The use of chemical pesticides has become unnecessary in these paddy fields where frogs lay eggs in the flooded paddy fields, which keeps the number of tadpoles high and leads to more dragonfly nymphs to feed on tadpoles. Before the onset of summer, frogs, dragonflies and spiders play an active role in suppressing rice pests, allowing farmers to avoid the use of chemical pesticides.

Trends in agrochemical legislation

Among the existing legislation on agricultural chemicals, measures on the control of pesticides, the use of fertilizers and the regulation of other agricultural chemical formulations (insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, etc.) are evident in some Asian countries. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) reports, however, that although most developing countries have adopted registration systems to address issues related to the use of agricultural chemicals, health and environmental problems have not been reduced.

Indonesia, Vietnam, South Korea and Thailand provide examples of pesticide control. All pesticides are banned in Indonesia unless they meet government registration requirements. The Ministry of Agriculture is assisted by an interministerial pesticide committee. Registration is refused for substances with chronic (carcinogenic, mutagenic) or acute toxicity. The Vietnamese government, on the other hand, has set up a pesticide registration committee to cover insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, rodenticides, and three-plant growth regulators. Research on beneficial organisms has been conducted focusing on rice and other major crops.

In South Korea, all pesticides are regulated by the Pesticide Management Law administered by the Rural Development Administration of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. Although users, traders or the government are not required to test pesticides for their effects on non-target anthropoids, work has been done to determine the impact of specific pesticides on natural enemies of agricultural pests. The Ministry of Environment has also introduced an environmental impact rating system for herbicides to be displayed on the label.

In contrast, in Thailand, the pesticide control system is governed by the Hazardous Substances Act. Before a product is marketed, full registration is required, which includes submission of bio-efficacy testing, complete toxicology data, and two years of feeding studies. In Pakistan, the importation, manufacture, formulation, distribution, safe use and advertising of pesticides are regulated by the Agricultural Pesticides Ordinance and Rules, which are based on FAO guidelines. The Pesticides Act of Myanmar provides for registration procedures carried out by the Pesticide Registration Board. About 77 percent of pesticides and 90 percent of insecticides are used on rice.

In China, all pesticides must be registered under the Pesticide Registration Regulations of the Institute for Agrochemicals Control, Ministry of Agriculture. Registration has three stages: field test, temporary registration and permanent registration. Permanent registration is obtained only after the completion of field trials for efficacy and residues and requires a full set of toxicological data. In Laos, despite the active discouragement of their use by the government, chemical pesticides (mainly insecticides) are still sometimes used in irrigated rice fields. Fungicides and herbicides are more rarely used, which explains the high population levels of natural predatory insects in this area. The country has a pesticide law to control the import, manufacture or repackaging of pesticides.

Inadequacy of legislation

The current focus on conserving biodiversity that will hopefully give way to a food production and supply system and save the world from the brink of climate change-induced food scarcity is growing. further reinforced by the importance of rice paddies as a key management sector. However, rice paddy legislation in Asia seems inadequate to help sustain paddy ecosystems.

A review of available laws with a focus on the required compliance procedures in place relating to the use of agricultural chemicals gives the impression that existing laws, rules and regulations might even impede or impede conservation objectives for the sustainable development. Specifically, in the area of ​​pesticide use, the lack of political will, as evidenced by the absence of funds, personnel, technical information, laboratories and infrastructure for the implementation and enforcement of the details of pesticide laws, can make the problem worse. Ignorance is widespread regarding regulatory requirements for pesticide use and how to meet these requirements; compliance management systems and even compliance training for staff. The inability to meet the requirements is mainly due to the lack of technology.

Overall, the range of legal and institutional issues includes the current fragmentation of the issue in legal and institutional frameworks, scattered provisions and inconsistent legislative treatment across various agencies, and a number of different standards and procedures applied. partially. There are few legally backed monitoring requirements, a lack of coordination among government agencies, and insufficient budget and trained personnel in the wise use of rice paddies. In addition, reforms are needed in all pesticide legislation to make them effective rice paddy governance instruments for wetland and biodiversity conservation.

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