Medicine or Poison? The Pesticide Epidemic in Cambodia

Olivia Taylor, `14
Olivia Taylor, `14

By: Olivia Taylor, `14

Cambodia is a unique country because of its 90% rural population and subsequently large agricultural sector.  The agriculture is on a subsistence level for 72% of farmers which means that the majority of the farmers are farming to produce food for themselves.  Buying pesticides in their local markets has become a part of the farming culture.  While these pesticides theoretically aid them with the pests who hinder their crops, in reality they are hurting the farmer’s income, crop yield and health.   After reading a few case studies I found a dependency on not just pesticides but toxic and illegal pesticides.  Cambodian farmers are subjecting themselves to possible death from overexposure to pesticides banned in other nations but available illegally in Cambodia.  The illegal trade of these pesticides to developing countries is a major problem developed countries like the United States contribute to.  However, the more fascinating research is how illegal pesticides are engrained in the Cambodian culture despite their cancerous nature.
This topic interested me because it required an analysis of many factors such as the economic, political, educational, cultural and historical nature of Cambodia.  Pesticides are not a new problem.  I could trace the start of the problems back to the Pol Pot genocide of 1975 where 20% of the population died.  The Cambodian economy is also just as relevant because 85% of the jobs for women are concentrated in agriculture and textiles.  This in conjunction with the fact that 60% of the population relies on one crop, rice, for their daily existence made Cambodia fascinating to me.  Many factors contribute to this dependency on pesticides in Cambodia.  However, potential solutions are being implemented and finally more research is being done to save farmer’s health, modernize the Cambodian economy, educate a generation on new farming techniques and raise the standard of living.

Medicine or Poison? The Pesticide Epidemic in Cambodia

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