Pesticide Management in India
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Pesticide Management in India

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Agriculture

Pesticide Management in India

Why in the news?

A new Pesticide Management Bill was created and the same has now been approved by the Union Cabinet on February 12, 2020. 

This new bill will be tabled in Parliament in this session and the earlier version will be withdrawn by the government.

Introduction:

With rising population and demand for food, agriculture in India has been largely dependent on chemicals including pesticides and their usage has a huge impact on the health of humans, animals, biodiversity, and the environment.

Specifically, after the green revolution, the use of chemicals in agriculture has significantly increased.

In the last few decades the gaps in existing acts like Insecticides Act, 1968have been exposed.

Pesticides Usage in India:

India is the fourth-largest producer of pesticides in the world with a market cap worth Rs 197 billion in 2018. It is projected to reach a value of Rs 316 billion by 2024, growing at a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 8.1% during 2019-2024.

Due to the increase in agricultural wages, there has been an increase in the cost of manual weed control. It is one of the major contributors to increased pesticide use.

Issues related to pesticide use:

Potential risk to humans and other life forms

Adverse impact on the environment

Soil and water pollution

Farmers get multiple health issues like impaired memory, headache, fatigue, etc due to prolonged exposure.

Pesticides go up the food chain through the environment and into the soil or the water systems after which they are eaten by aquatic animals or plants and ultimately humans. This process is called Biomagnification. (The process by which a compound (such as a pollutant or pesticide) increases its concentration in the tissues of organisms as it travels up the food chain.)

Prolonged use may lead to an ecological, economic, and existential crisis.

Several pesticides are used in India have been banned in other countries.

Types of chemicals used in Indian Agriculture::

Pesticides:: For fungus, bacteria, insects, plant disease, etc.

Insecticides:: For insects

Molluscicides:: To control snails, slugs, and similar mollusks

Fungicides:: To control fungi 

Herbicides:: To control weeds

Some Statistics::

Pesticides in India are registered with the Directorate of Plant Protection, Quarantine & Storage which is an attached office under the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare.

Chemical Pesticide use in India 

2014-15::56121 Metric Tonne

2017-18:: 62183 Metric Tonne

The Upcoming Bill and its importance

Focus on minimal use of pesticides::

Promoting pesticides will take India away from sustainable agriculture practices and agro-ecology. The bill must consider minimizing the use of pesticides, as pesticide use is not sustainable.

Greater say to state governments::

State governments should have the power to regulate pesticides considering agro-ecological aspects in their state. 

However, states need not be given the power to allow a pesticide, which is otherwise not approved by the Registration Committee.

Penalties in proportion to sales needed::

A small financial penalty would not be enough deterrence for a big company selling pesticides worth crores of rupees. Financial penalties should be proportional to the value of total sales of the concerned pesticide in India. It should not be based only on annual turnover because the damage may not be limited to one year.

Pesticide promotion must not be allowed::

 A ‘code of conduct’ must be developed and followed by pesticide companies. Advertisements are by design suited to the commercial interest of the advertiser and aimed at influencing the buying behavior of farmers, who are often uneducated and unaware of the marketing tactics. Hence restrictions may be imposed.

Class, I pesticides should be banned

Based on acute toxicity, the World Health Organization classifies certain pesticides as extremely hazardous (Class Ia) and highly hazardous (Class Ib). Necessary provisions should be made in the bill to ban the sale and use of Class I pesticides.

Farmers must be made aware of judicious usage

Pesticides are hazardous chemicals with multiple, severe, and even fatal, acute as well as chronic toxic effects. Therefore, proper provision should be made to increase the knowledge of farmers by competent unbiased people.

Provision for acute emergencies and polluter pays principle:

The bill must incorporate a provision that makes it illegal to sell a pesticide by a pesticide company without personal protective equipment or safety gear. The provision of systems and standard operating procedures for acute medical emergencies should also be made.

The Polluter Pays’ principle should be the basis for fixing liability and compensation from the company. Any pesticide registration must follow a transparent assessment procedure.

Further, legislative powers to regulate pesticides should be transferred to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare from the MoAFW, to address the health-related concerns without any conflict of interest.

Phase-out chemical pesticides as soon as possible by providing available alternatives

research and innovations must be made to phase out the usage of chemical pesticides completely as soon as possible.

Lessons learned from successful farming community initiatives like Keet Sakshatra Pathshala, Jind, Haryana, and Non-Pesticide Management Programme implemented by Andhra Pradesh and other successful alternative approaches should be identified and mainstreamed.