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PIA Press Release

People's health never sacrificed for Davao's rich harvests - PBGEA

Davao City (4 June) -- Drs. Carissa C. Dioquinio and Lynn Crisanta R. Panganiban of the Philippine Society of Clinical & Occupational Toxicology and of the UP National Poison Management and Control Center respectively have all reasons to be surprised, like all banana growers and workers, that a study they were commissioned to do in Sitio Camocaan and Sitio Baliwaga found soil chlorothalonil and air ETU in two out of six samples, one of which was reportedly beyond the US-EPA remediation level.

This is indeed alarming and should be reason enough, as scientific critical-mindedness necessitates, to conduct a validating study or at the very least, a peer review of said study.

What is very alarming is that both doctors opted to put their stamp of approval on the study which was first presented in a television show four years after it was conducted and which raised questions from the scientific community as to its methodology and rationale during a deliberately low-profile public presentation only last May 12 this year.

It was found beyond reasonable doubt that the air ETU, a degradation product of fungicide that their field personnel monitored in one sample out of six, were in extremely small amounts. In fact, one sample taken from an irrigation canal in a banana plantation did not contain fungicide residues but only the degradation product because the area was sprayed seven days earlier.

This finding demonstrated that fungicides are degraded when exposed to sunlight, rainwater and dew under the torrid climatic conditions of the country.

Do the good doctors know that under intense questioning by private sector experts in public health and toxicology, the study team's lead investigator, Dr. Alan Dionisio, categorically admitted that there is no direct correlation between the aerially-sprayed fungicide and the illnesses of a few residents, mostly transients, in both Camocaan and Baliwaga?

It befuddles the mind that they still insist on an aerial spray ban despite their own findings that the low-dose fungicide being aerially-sprayed on banana plantations did not harm anyone.

The banana industry is not against organic farming as a certain Mr. Rene B. Pineda of Antipolo City wants people to believe or that we are spraying insecticides and other chemicals hazardous to people's health and the environment. We do not spray toxic chemicals and all that we are asking for is to be allowed to make use of a fungicide-control practice that have been proven safe to both humans and the environment. We have our 30-year track record of safety for all to see.

Surely the good doctors and Mr. Pineda know that statistical randomnization, as a core principle in statistical theory, must balance other factors that have not been explicitly accounted for in a study design. Were those random numbers fall short of the acceptable standards of randomness, any subsequent analysis will suffer from systemic bias. This is one of the many lapses of their health assessment and environmental study of Sitio Camocaan and it is to nobody's benefit to cover it up with an air of infallibility.

"Randomnization" is a term also applicable to gambling. It is one term that Davao's homegrown banana industry takes with a grain of salt. It is our corporate social responsibility never to gamble with the lives and future of the hundreds of thousands of residents who are dependent on our continuing viability. We must, by all means, take precaution against all forms of harmful pests and in a manner, as we have been doing the past many years, that will ensure rich harvests but neither sacrifice the health of the people or contaminate the environment.

We pray that those now under pressure to prove their institutional relevance for whatever purpose it will serve them will do it in the best interest of our country and people. We do share their noble cause of protecting our rich biodiversity and environmental integrity but it must be pursued not with Quixotic exuberance but with a dispassionate, scientific and developmental perspective. (pr) [top]

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