III. MECHANISMS FOR INTEGRATING ENVIRONMENTAL CONSIDERATIONS INTO AGRICULTURAL POLICY
Currently, the Pesticides Act, 1974, is the principal legislation for the control of pesticides in Malaysia. Supporting the Act are four main rules/regulations: the Pesticides (Registration) Rules, 1976; Pesticides (Importation for Education and Research Purposes) Rules 1981; Pesticides (Labelling) Regulations, 1984; and Pesticides (Licensing for Sale and Storage for Sale) Rules, 1988 (table 5). The Pesticides Act spells out the procedures to be taken in the case of injury or death from exposure, contact with or handling of pesticides. The Act also empowers the Ministry of Agriculture to require an inquiry into the event of deaths from pesticides. However, there is no legislation on pesticide use, waste and disposal. A farmer can spray as much and as often as he wishes, so long as it is not a banned product. Pesticide waste can consist of the pesticide itself (such as old stocks, leftovers or spillage), packaging, diluted product, contaminated clothing or other materials and rinsing water. At present, pesticide wastes and effluents from factories are controlled by the Environmental Quality Act (Amendment), 1985. Some more important and crucial areas are neglected, including: (a) safety measures for workers engaged in the manufacture of pesticides and workers who are daily exposed to such chemicals; (b) safe transportation of pesticides in bulk; (c) safe disposal of used pesticide containers; (d) levels of pesticide residues in food; and (e) the safe disposal of toxic wastes resulting from pesticide manufacture.
The absence of legislation covering those vital areas reflects a lack of an overall perspective of pesticides management.
The Pesticides Board, which came into existence under the Pesticides Act, 1974, is the sole authority charged with the responsibility of regulating pesticide use in Malaysia. It took the Board two years to draft rules on the registration of pesticides and another five years before those rules came into force on 1 April 1981. Only pesticides registered by the Pesticides Board, under the Ministry of Agriculture, are allowed to be manufactured, sold or used in Malaysia. The Board has registered as safe for use several pesticides that are either banned or restricted in many countries including DDT, Chlordane, Heptachlor, Leptophos, Lindane, Endrin, Aldrin, Dieldrin, Endosulfan, Dichlorvos, BHC, 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T. In the 1960s and early 1970s, a deadly poison, sodium arsenite, was used to kill weeds and old rubber trees in plantations. Despite its telling effect on livestock grazing on land in and around those plantations, the chemical continued to be used for many years. Sodium arsenite was eventually banned in late 1976 when RRIM withdrew its recommendation for its continued use. It was replaced by 2,4,5-T and paraquat which are considered to be equally toxic.
The government’s cordial relationship with the industry has boosted sales and use of pesticides by allowing agribusiness firms to advertise their products in electronic media and the Journal of the Ministry of Agriculture. Pesticides promotion is also undertaken by the government under the Farmers Organization Authority, which has retail shops throughout the country whose function, among others, is to distribute pesticides. Pesticides are also distributed free-of-charge as a subsidy to specific government projects.