Skip to main content

Pesticide companies' lobbying 'seriously impairing' basics of governance, regulation

Dr Narasimha Reddy Donthi* 

The Indian agricultural sector is grappling with low incomes, shortage of natural resources, increasing pest incidence and low public investments in research and extension. Pest attacks are increasing. Previously unknown pests are attacking crops. Farmers, indebted as they are due to various market mechanisms, are finding it hard to protect their crop investments. Thus, farmers are pushed into the conundrum of pesticide usage by pesticide markets and companies. Pesticide usage in India is increasingly becoming a regulatory problem.
Regulation has not been effective in the face of such challenges. Scientific expertise on pesticides is often subsumed in the policy tradeoffs that, in the ultimate scenario, encourage production and marketing of Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs). Expert Committee reports, which are recommending withdrawal of certain HHPs, are not being acted upon. Lobbying by pesticide companies has seriously impaired the basics of governance and regulation. Even research is severely debilitated.
Amendment to pesticide legislation has been pending for the past 15 years or more. A comprehensive pesticide regulatory law and related mechanism of effective implementation still remains unfulfilled. Pesticide Management Bill has undergone several changes, since 2008, but still remains on paper because pesticide companies are not agreeing to scientific regulation. Pesticide approval conditions remain on paper, since no one is aware of why and how a particular pesticide has been approved. Transparency is lacking. People cannot access approval mechanisms.
There is no congruence between approved conditions and recommendations of pesticide usage by various universities across the country. Scientists based in Universities and research institutions routinely recommend pesticides for pests and crops, without reference to the registration conditions.
Registrations are themselves are based on efficacy data submitted by the applicant pesticide companies. Usually, farmers are blamed for indiscriminate usage. But, pesticide regulators, pesticide companies and agricultural scientists do not have consistency in their recommendations. This leaves the farmers to do their ‘own’ research, by trying combinations of pesticides, and end up with consequences.
Our report ‘State Of Chlorpyrifos, Fipronil, Atrazine And Paraquat Dichloride In India’ reveals serious problems of pesticide usage in India and points to poor regulation of hazardous agrochemicals. There is widespread unauthorised use of chlorpyrifos, fipronil, atrazine and paraquat in India, posing threat to food safety and environmental contamination.
While these four pesticides were approved for use in India for specific crop-pest combinations, the study uncovered numerous unapproved uses in food and non-food crops. Chlorpyrifos is approved for 18 crops in India, while this study found its use in 23 crops. Fipronil is approved for nine crops and field use was recorded for 27 crops. Similarly, atrazine and paraquat dichloride are approved for one and 11 crops respectively, field uses have been noted in 19 and 23 crops respectively.
Of serious concern is that the study uncovered agriculture departments/universities and pesticide industry recommending unapproved uses. These high numbers of non-approved uses pose serious questions on the safety of agricultural produce and environmental contamination. The Maximum Residue Level (MRL) for agriculture produce is monitored based approved uses and therefore, non-approved uses are largely unmonitored for MRLs which is a serious food safety concern domestically, as well as a treat to international trade of agriculture commodities.
HHPs are being marketed, as companies are pushing their products through advertisements and sales networks. Often, farmers are misled and influenced into using pesticides that are not recommended for the purpose. Farmers are led to believe that pesticides are the easy choices for the problems they are facing in crop production. HHPs are being pushed as technical answers to social problems such as labour shortages. Herbicide usage, as studies show, is linked to the perception that it’s better to use these hazardous products than manage local agricultural labour.
Negative consequences of such usage are not recognised by the farmers. Farmers who are aware of the hazardous impacts of herbicides and pesticides feel there is no other way. It’s a kind of Hobson’s choice.
Pesticide poisoning is causing ill-health in rural communities and chronic impacts on the health of, particularly, children and women. Sociological groups such as farm labourers and small farmers have become extremely vulnerable to the poisonous effects of pesticides. The persistence of these chemical contaminants in water, soil and air is perpetuating the problem, unseen and unnoticed.
This is where the need for proper agricultural extension services is felt. However, governments have been withdrawing from providing extension services, forcing farmers to depend on advice from the sales persons at local shops for agricultural inputs. Financial linkages also force the farmers to heed advice from these sales persons.
Agri-inputs shop owners allow farmers to purchase agriculture inputs (seeds, fertilisers and plant protection chemicals) without over-the-counter payment, and the shop owners deduct it later from the harvest payments, or, farmers pay after the market sales. Thus, a financial bondage is established. This bondage has become a tool for pesticide companies to push their hazardous products.
Pesticide Action Network India (PAN India) in collaboration with PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP) is working on various initiatives to get rid of these HHPs and reverse the harm caused by them. A study of four pesticides – two insecticides namely chlorpyrifos and fipronil as well as two herbicides, atrazine and paraquat dichloride – is part of these initiatives. Education and awareness on pesticides is required.
Recently, the Malaysian government banned the use of the HHPs chlorpyrifos and carbofuran in the agriculture sector effective May 1, 2023. Chlorpyrifos was already banned in 39 countries prior to Malaysia’s announcement. India should take similar action.
Farmers and consumers need to understand the long-term consequences of pesticides that are primarily designed to kill life. Scientists have to do more research on harmful impacts of pesticides. Policy makers also need to increase their awareness and focus on regulating these pesticides, and put the welfare of the farmers and their communities before the profits of the pesticide companies.
Pesticides have been identified as one of the major factors in causing climate change, through their destructive characteristics. Banishing pesticides is one of the options for conservation of Earth and its biodiversity.
---
*Policy expert and steering committee member, Pesticide Action Network India

Comments

TRENDING

Economist-editor's allegations on Narmada defamatory, baseless: Medha Patkar

Counterview Desk  In a reply directly addressed to well-known economist, journalist and columnist Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar’s two articles in the Times of India (republished here and here ), calling them defamatory and wondering whether they were borne out of “ignorance or a conspiracy through political alliance”, Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Pakar has said that the Narmada Sardar Saravar Project and the people's movement by adivasis, farmers, labourers, fish workers, potters and all the generations’ old communities from the river valley have suddenly come to be focused on, since the Gujarat elections are in the doorstep. She believes that while the “defamatory accusations with baseless conceptions such as ‘urban naxals’ are to be laughed at as the electoral strategic moves, one gets shocked to read the articles by a known old columnist like Swaminathan Ankalesaria Aiyar, published in a reputed daily like the Times of India." According to her, Aiyar’s two articl

Corporate-political party nexus? Rise and rise of Gautam Adani under Modi regime

By Sandeep Pandey*  In last five years Rs 10,09,510 crore taken as loans by various companies from banks in India have been declared as Non Performing Assets, an euphemism for writing them off. Out of this State Bank of India alone wrote off Rs 2,04,486 crore. Only about 13% of the total written off amount was recovered. Identity of the defaulting borrowers, most of whom are influential corporates, is not revealed. Compare this to the loans taken by farmers. The names of defaulting farmers is displayed on walls in tehsil offices to shame them and some unlucky ones also land up in lock-ups there. On the contrary, a few corporate defaulters have fled the country and quite curiously the authorities didn’t seize their passports like they do with some dissenting intellectuals or activists booked under mostly false cases. Now consider the donations received by political parties in the form of electoral bonds. The identity of the donor need not be revealed even to the Election Commission or i

Facing tough times, Rajasthan's Raika herders hold first-ever camel cheese festival

By Rosamma Thomas*  During the pandemic, the annual Pushkar camel fair in Rajasthan did not occur for fear of contagion; in 2022, it was called off again as lumpy skin disease affected cattle. At Sadri in Pali district, however, festivity continues – a two-day Camel Cheese Festival was held on November 23 and 24, 2022. Visitors spent time with the camel herds and their Raika, drank camel-milk tea with the herders and then returned to lunch at the Kumbhalgarh Camel Dairy, from where the Kumbhalgarh Fort is visible, to taste camel cheese. The Raika herders have been facing a tough time – camels are no longer used as much for transport or agriculture in Rajasthan. The animals have limited utility, but their milk is prized. Camel Charisma, the dairy at Kumbhalgarh, sends camel milk across the country to people who use it in therapy – for autistic children, improved blood sugar levels, or even to treat cancer. It is believed that the health benefits of the camel milk is because the animals

BJP-RSS trap opposition in 'futile row' around Savarkar, freedom movement

By Prem Singh*  Everything in this article is just a repetition. I have been saying all this since 1991-92. It is obvious that the Congress and the RSS/BJP do not like my ideas. But most socialists, advocates of social justice and communists also dislike my thoughts. I watch their measures and efforts to deal with the present crisis with interest. I respect them and also participate. Yet, the fact it, we fall behind again and again, and the crisis goes ahead. Instead of being a solution-providers, we are seen to be a part of the crisis. How long will this last? Perhaps, if the new generation thinks differently, things may turn for better! 1 To say that modern Indian society and politics are passing through the deepest crisis ever will surely be a repetition. The crisis is deeper than the spreading of communal hatred we witness around us. In fact, the business of communal hatred is flourishing by taking its manure and water from the deep crisis. The crisis of neo-colonial slavery is pro

Carbon abatement to tackle climate change: India's failure has 'outpaced' its success

By Satorupa Karmakar*  On November 01, 2021, India took a pledge of reaching a carbon-zero stage by 2070, at the COP-26 held in Glasgow, UK. As ‘ambitious’ and dubious it may sound to some, with a short-term delay in renewable energy generation (which gained the pace post-September 2020) and drastic fall in greenhouse gas (GHG) emission level as COVID-19 emerged as a ‘necessary evil’ , the path of India’s clean energy mission could be seen being paved throughout this time. Currently ranked as the third largest GHG emitter in the world, India is projected to demand more energy in coming years due to a large population base (1.3 billion as per 2011 Census data) and primarily coal-based fast-growing economy. Rapid industrialisation in post-colonial developing countries like India, stimulated by a larger and cheaper pool of fossil fuels and labour-force depicted a continuous upsurge in temperature, heavy precipitation in some places with an overall declining rainfall and a burgeoning soc

Demand to withdraw 'anti-environment, anti-adivasi' forest conservation rules 2022

By Gopinath Majhi*  The Campaign for Survival and Dignity (CSD), Odisha, a coalition of adivasis and forest dwellers’ organisations, has sent a memorandum to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) raising serious concerns over Forest (Conservation) Rules, 2022, notified by the Centre on June 29.  Contending that recent amendments and a host of executive orders/guidelines issued by the ministry undermine and dilute the FRA and threaten the rights of adivasis and forest dwellers, CSD demands that the 2022 FC Rules should be rescinded forthwith. Demanding withdrawal of such anti-people and anti-environment rules CSD Odisha organised a protest Dharana in front of State Assembly today on 25th November 2022 and submitted memorandums to the Hon’ble Governor of Odisha, Chief Secretary and Commissioner-cum-Secretary, ST & SC Development Department for conveying our concerns against the FC Rules 2022 to the Central Government for its withdrawal. The memorandums w

GM mustard not swadeshi, it's a patent of MNC Bayer, GoI 'misleading' SC: Modi told

Counterview Desk  In a representation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as many as 42 farmers’ organisations though their representatives , backed by senior scientists and experts, have said that the Government of India (GoI) should stop misleading the Supreme Court “with untrue and incorrect” statements on GM mustard. Insisting that India does not need unsafe GM mustard, in their representation, they urged the Supreme Court to order immediate uprooting of GM mustard crop in various locations. The representation comes even as a penal of experts, coming down heavily on the GoI for refusing to see how in less than a week’s time the pollen from GM mustard will “start contaminating” non-GM mustard fields with transgenes, including male sterility and herbicide tolerant traits. Alleging that the GoI is actively misleading the Supreme Court with untrue and incorrect statements on GM mustard, Kavitha Kuruganti of the Coalition for a GM-Free India said, “We can list at least five areas where Gov

Shedding Hindu-Hindi-Hindustan? New Modi-Shah love for Tamil Nadu 'ignores' Periyar

By Sandeep Pandey*   The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) or the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) have long argued for ‘Hindu-Hindi-Hindustan’, which into recent years has translated into a crisper English expression: ‘One Nation-One Religion-One Language’. Given this backdrop, it is curious that the BJP government has organised the Kashi Tamil Sangamam in Varanasi, the Prime Minister’s constituency. Why did the BJP and RSS feel the need for such an event? All Narendra Modi events are highly publicised and have multiple political objectives. It is never an innocuous religious/cultural event as it may appear from the face of it. Afterall, RSS calls itself a cultural organisation, but has never ceased to surprise us with its political designs. Tamil Nadu has a long history of opposing imposition of Hindi by Union governments. Periyar EV Ramasamy had opposed the idea of compulsory teaching in Hindi as far back as in 1937. The 1960s witnessed violent protests against Hindi in which a number

Never-ending saga of sin tax: What if murder is taxed at Rs 1 crore, rape at Rs 5 crore?

By Moses Raj GS, Sangeetha Thomas*  What should have ended by June 30, 2022 as a 5 year experiment has resurfaced. The government has extended the levy of GST compensation cess by another 4 years till March 31, 2026. This cess, dubbed as the sin tax imposed on sin(ful) goods, is double the highest slab on indirect taxes. But only a few pay for it and the majority benefit, unendingly. The year 2017 is a landmark year for indirect taxes. With the grand idea of ‘One Nation, One Tax’ as a fiscal slogan subsuming all State based taxes such as octroi /entry tax, Value Added Tax (VAT), sales tax, taxes on lottery, betting and gambling, luxury tax, purchase tax, entertainment tax, property tax, professional tax and central sales tax into a single framework of Goods and Services Tax (GST) changed the contours of revenue collection. Complicating it further, India, with each State having its own size and revenue problems, has the most complex and highly centralised indirect tax structure in the w

'Extremist' US Hindu global group funding hate against Indian Churches: NGO groups

Counterview Desk  As many as 14 civil rights and faith-based organizations in co-signing a letter to the US Senators, Representatives, State Governor, and other elected officials have demanded the FBI, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and Department of Justice should investigate into Texas-based organization Global Hindu Heritage Foundation (GHHF) a fundraiser campaign for demolishing churches in India. Co-signed by Federation of Indian American Christian Organization in North America (FIACONA), North American Church of God, Southern Methodist University (SMU) Human Rights Program, Amnesty International - Dallas, World Without Genocide, Center for Pluralism, Genocide Watch, The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), Limitless Church, Justice for All, Hindu for Human Rights, North Texas Peace Advocates, Good Citizens of DFW, and the North Texas Islamic Council, the letter has been sent to Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz; Representatives Michael C Burgess, Pat Fallon, Van Taylor, Terr