Nguyen Xuan Hong, director of the agricultural ministry's Plant Protection Department, spoke with Nong thon Ngay nay (Countryside Today) newspaper about measures to avoid contaminated food.
What made your de-partment come up with a proposal to establish the plant protection service groups?
Millions of households in Viet Nam spray pesticides on their crops in an attempt to kill insects.
However, the farmers' lack of knowledge about the use of pesticides has caused quite a big food safety problem.
Pesticides are a large and diverse group of chemicals that includes insecticides,herbicides, fungicides and insect repellents.
It is illegal to use pesticides in a manner not specified on the product label. But many farmers don't read the product label and use the pesticides as they deem necessary – spraying them on cotton, rubber and perennial trees as well as vegetables.
More seriously, many farmers don't think about how many days to wait after spraying before harvesting the crop.
Based on surveys we conducted in several localities, we deem it imperative to teach farmers good management and establish pesticide service groups.
In the pilot stage, what crops and plants will be the focus?
Tea plants will be used for the pilot stage in all three regions - north, south and central. In each region, there will be a demonstration plot.
At the end of the pilot stage, we'll look at the lessons learned. If the pilot is successful, we'll scale up to include other plants.
We will then establish farmers' pesticide service groups. The groups will sign contracts with tea-growing households and promise to keep their tea trees free from pests or insects.
What benefits will the farmers enjoy from joining the service groups?
Members of the service groups will attend training courses on how to use pesticides correctly and receive support from staff of the local plant protection units.
Of course, the groups will be placed under the management of the local administration.
In addition, they will be provided with necessary equipment, including personal protection equipment as well as health insurance and other social welfare policies.
If they have to borrow money from credit institutions, they will be given special treatment.
Farmers' crop yields will be insured by the local government in case the plants are destroyed by pests or insecticides.
Do you think the service groups will contribute to improving people's health?
Certainly. People engaged in farming in our country today are mostly old people and children. They don't want any contact with pesticides.
So when the service groups are established, they will do the job for them. The groups have a double benefit: they provide jobs to more people and reduce the number of people who have to come into contact with the pesticides.
Moreover, pesticides will be put under tight control by the authorities and their proper application will protect the health of both people and crops. — VNS