BUSINESS leaders in Mindanao are now up in arms against non-government organizations who have lobbied for the banning of aerial spraying as an agricultural method, especially in dollar earning sectors like the Cavendish export industry.

Refusing to name any specific organizations, Mindanao Business Council chair Vicente Lao said NGOs behind the campaign have been employing dirty tricks even to the point of manufacturing lies to paint the farm practice as unsafe to human health.

Click here for stories and updates on the Sinulog 2010 Festival.

"Those who campaign against aerial spraying are among the NGOs that have gone overboard," Lao said.

He justified his claim by pointing out that those groups calling for the banning of the farm practice have been using a questionable study in lobbying before government agencies and religious organizations just so they could continue with their campaign.

Referring to the controversial Department of Health funded 2006 study on Camocaan, a village in Hagonoy, Davao del Sur near a banana farm, which experts, including those from the World Health Organization, junked it for being inconclusive.

Incidentally, the DOH has stood by this study.

This developed as banana farmers welcomed the appointment of Esperanza Cabral as Health secretary, replacing Francisco Duque III who was transferred to the Civil Service Commission.

"We hope Secretary Cabral will not do a Duque," said Rodolfo Villanueva, a leader of an agrarian reform beneficiaries cooperative in Sto. Tomas, Davao del Norte.

Villanueva was referring to Duque's recommendation to stop aerial spraying based on the Camocaan study that the pro-aerial spray groups are insisting is questionable.

Earlier, plantation groups criticized Duque for refusing to meet with them in Manila even he was seen talking with Dr. Romeo Quijano of the Pesticide Action Network, one of the groups campaigning against aerial spraying.

At the center of the debate on the aerial spray ban is the Mancozeb, a fungicide sprayed aerially. Its manufacturers caution against its accidental inhalation and contact with skin because it affects thyroid and liver, and has also caused tumors and birth defects in test animals. Since the debate started in Davao City after the city banned aerial spraying, the debate has shifted into the personalities and groups behind the debate. (Carlo P. Mallo)