Agriculture minister Pema Gyamtsho denied making any announcement or statements at the recent Annual Sustainable Development conference in Delhi, India about Bhutan turning 100 percent organic by 2020 as reported by certain international media.
This was in response to the concerns raised by opposition leader (OL) Tshering Tobgay, during the question hour yesterday over recent media reports on Bhutan pledging to be the first nation in the world to turn its home-grown food and farmers 100 percent organic.
Referring to the media reports, the OL questioned agriculture minister Pema Gyamtsho why such statements were made without consulting the farmers, people and the parliament. “It worries me because it’s a national pledge which can have huge impact on our farmers who are dependent on income from agricultural activities,” the OL said.
“The government announced it will phase out chemicals used in farming over the next 10 years. Most of the farmers already use organic practices, but herbicides, pesticides and fungicides are used in larger areas,” reports the SustainableBusiness.com.
The OL said while banning pesticides or chemicals are ideal, farmers are already faced with acute shortage and unavailability of manure for their crops. “Some farmers can hardly produce sufficient food for personal consumption, let alone cash crops,” he said.
The agriculture minister said he did speak on the high importance that the country holds for conservation of nature and natural resources and its drive towards a green economy.
The minister also acknowledged the OL’s concerns and said “I represent the country whenever I travel abroad and to make such statements I would have to have it discussed with people, government and the parliament before hand.”
“Media, whether it is local or international always fail to publish accurate information. It is our goal but it’s not about becoming an organic nation overnight or by 2020 or by 2030,” the minister said.
The minister also explained to the house, technical details about organic farming and its long term benefits to the nation. He said shunning fertilizers and other chemicals will reduce air pollution and diseases among other merits.
Despite the objective to be fully organic, chemicals such as pesticides and manures are still used by some farmers at the moment. “As of now, it’s still up to the farmers whether to use chemicals or not. So there shouldn’t be any issues,” the minister said.
However, the OL cautioned that high officials while representing the country abroad has to be careful of what they speak. The opposition MPs also referred to the declaration made by the government on behalf of Bhutan to remain carbon neutral at CoP 15 that took place in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2009 and the government’s failed attempt to secure a seat at the United Nations Security Council last year. “No discussions or consultations were carried out with the people or the parliament,” the OL said.
He said the local media learnt about the declaration at CoP 15 only after international media broke the news.
The agriculture minister said it was discussed in the cabinet and that he received a “Kasho” from Lyonchhen to make the declaration.
Currently, Bhutan exports rare mushrooms, fruits and vegetables to a few countries in the region as well as red rice to the United States.