Asean experts are meeting in Vientiane this week to discuss pesticide use and creating internationally accepted solutions to regulate its use in member countries.
The Asean Expert Working Group is meeting as part of the Asia Forum on Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) and Trade Facilitation, in conjunction with a meeting on the harmonisation of pesticide MRLs among Asean countries.
The meeting also includes international and regional representatives, who aim to set standard measures and resolve some of the problems that Asian countries face with regard to pesticide use.
The objectives of the two-day meeting, which began yesterday, are to increase understanding of current MRL regulations in Asean countries with regard to regulatory systems, risk assessment schemes and requirements.
Participants will also address challenges and future prospects for balancing food safety and trade flow.
The Lao government through the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry places a high priority on plant health and pesticide MRLs in order to ensure the sustainable development of agriculture and fulfill compliance with the WTO-SPS Agreement, Agriculture Department Director General Dr Monthathip Chanphengxay told the meeting.
The government has a clean agriculture policy, with the goal of producing safe and organic agricultural products through the use of four production systems: conventional traditional agriculture, conventional chemical agriculture, pesticide free agriculture, and organic agriculture, Dr Monthathip said.
However, agricultural productivity in Laos remains low because traditional farming methods are susceptible to the adverse affect of pests and diseases associated with the introduction of high yielding varieties and exotic crops, she added.
“As we are aware, traditional agriculture utilises natural resources and provides basic needs. But this is being replaced by a much more complex system dependent on the external influences of modern agricultural inputs, particularly improved seed, fertilisers, pesticides, new technology and credit access,” she explained.
Higher incomes and growth in neighbouring countries are creating a growing demand for food and agricultural products, she said.
These can be supplied from Laos, whose natural resources favour the expansion of agricultural production. Improvement of the investment climate, preparation for membership of the World Trade Organisation and the benefits of Asean Free Trade Area membership will play synergetic roles in unleashing the growth potential of agriculture, Dr Monthathip said.
In view of this, meeting participants will work towards determining measures that will enhance the capacity of Asean member states in harmonising MRLs standards.