By Marion V. Ali
Samples sent abroad for testing have confirmed that vegetables in the Valley of Peace area, Cayo, that were destroyed in March were done by Roundup, a lethal herbicide.
This week Jose Alpuche, chief executive officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, told The Reporter that the Ministry and the Department of Environment are looking specifically at strengthening the guidelines as they pertain to the application of chemicals to avoid a re-occurrence of the incident.
“The initial investigation [of the incident] revealed that the operators, who were contracted by Green Tropics to conduct the spraying, did not follow existing protocol as it relates to wind speeds.” Alpuche explained that aerial sprayings are prohibited when the wind velocity is above a certain limit. He added that the additional measures being looked at includes a number of relevant government agencies.
The 30 affected farmers lay the blame squarely on Green Tropics.
The farmers accuse the company of conducting irresponsible aerial spraying of herbicides over their fields, which contained mostly cabbage but also included pepper and tomato.
They claim that about 80 percent of their produce were destroyed.
Immediately following the destruction of the roughly 200 acres of farmland, The Valley of Peace Farmers Association claimed losses that exceeded over $1 million.
In its defense, Green Tropics maintains that the farmers have long been using land that belongs to them.
This territorial matter is one among several that the two parties are trying to resolve.
“We are giving them this opportunity for them to negotiate among themselves. If the matter ends in court…the ministry may very well have to provide expert testimony,” Alpuche explained.