Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
A RECENT decision by the Pesticides Control Authority to ban the sale of monosodium methanearsonate, commonly known as MSMA, which is used in the control of piano grass or Christmas grass, has left a member of the legislature fuming that the death of the cattle industry could be nigh.
Karl Samuda, member of parliament for North Central St Andrew, on Tuesday said MSMA is the only chemical that has successfully fought the spread of the piano grass. He told Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke that a replacement is needed within three weeks or else the impact on the cattle industry would be severe.
"If it does not come in within the next three weeks, this winter is dead," Samuda said.
He added: "At the end of this month, the process will commence and there is nothing that you can do to rectify it for the next three to four months."
Clarke said the MSMA was pulled from the shelf because of health concerns.
"Recently, the Pesticides Control Authority put a ban on it and they have proffered the reasons ... they say it is injurious to human health," Clarke said.
He added: "We met with another entity out of the United States which is connected to Grace, and they have been doing some trials. I am yet to know how efficient or the efficacy of that."
The United States Environmental Protection Agency is to cancel the registration of MSMA in all aspects of agriculture, including turf grass management.
The agency expressed concern that organic arsenic from MSMA could convert into the more toxic, inorganic form in the environment.
However, members of the MAA Research Task Force, manufacturers of MSMA, said the chemical is effective and safe for those who apply it properly, and to the environment.
"The toxicity of arsenical compounds, including MSMA, as well as their behaviour in the environment, has been studied extensively for over 40 years. The studies clearly show that organic arsenicals are safer than inorganic arsenicals, from the standpoints of both acute toxicity and chronic toxicity," the manufacturers have said.
They argued that, although MSMA contains an atom of arsenic, it is not a carcinogen.
Speaking in the Parliament on Tuesday, Samuda noted that researchers have often flip-flopped on what they deem to be carcinogenic in nature.
"Just the other day, coconut oil was carcinogenic, now it is a health food," Samuda said.
Arguing that "there is no alternative to MSMA", Samuda urged the Government to move post haste to deal with the issue.
"There is no animal, no beef industry, no cattle industry, unless you address this problem," the opposition MP said.
He added: "The fact is that, by not giving the farmer an opportunity to kill it, you are now giving it an opportunity to expand across the length and breadth of the country. Something has to be done on an emergency basis or else you are ruining the beef cattle industry, frustrating it to death."
Piano grass is often introduced to pastures by animals. Its floral awns cause severe damage to the mouths of grazing cattle, and ,according to Samuda, renders pastures inoperable and unusable for at least three months of the year, if it is allowed to take root.