- Reports of farmers dying from pesticide exposure in Maharashtra’s cotton belt in Yavatmal make it evident that the government’s efforts to regulate toxic chemicals used in agriculture have miserably failed. It is natural for cotton growers under pressure to protect their investments to rely on greater volumes of insecticides in the face of severe pest attacks. It appears many of them have suffered high levels of exposure to the poisons, leading to their death.
- The fact that they had to rely mainly on the advice of unscrupulous agents and commercial outlets for pesticides, rather than on agricultural extension officers, shows gross irresponsibility on the part of the government. But the problem runs deeper. The system of regulation of insecticides in India is obsolete, and even the feeble efforts at reform initiated by the UPA government have fallen by the wayside. A new Pesticides Management Bill introduced in 2008 was studied by the Parliamentary Standing Committee, but it is still pending. At the same time, there is worrying evidence that a large quantum of pesticides sold to farmers today is spurious, and such fakes are enjoying a higher growth rate than the genuine products. Clearly, there is a need for a high-level inquiry into the nature of pesticides used across the country, and the failure of the regulatory system. This should be similar to the 2003 Joint Parliamentary Committee that looked into harmful chemical residues in beverages and recommended the setting of tolerance limits.
- It is incongruous that the Centre has failed to grasp the need for reform in the regulation of pesticides, when it is focussed on growth in both agricultural production and exports. Agricultural products from India, including fruits and vegetables, have been subjected to import restrictions internationally for failing to comply with safety norms. It is imperative that a Central Pesticides Board be formed to advise on use and disposal of pesticides on sound lines, as envisaged under the law proposed in 2008. This will strengthen oversight of registration, distribution and sale of toxic chemicals. There can be no delay in updating the outmoded Insecticides Act of 1968. A stronger law will eliminate the weaknesses in the current rules that govern enforcement and introduce penalties where there are none. Aligning the new pesticides regulatory framework with food safety laws and products used in health care will make it broad-based. After the recent deaths, Maharashtra officials have hinted at the loss of efficacy of some hybrids of genetically modified cotton in warding off pests to explain the growth and intensity of pesticide use. The responsible course would be to make a proper assessment of the causes. It is also an irony that the Centre has failed to use its vast communication infrastructure, including DD Kisan, the satellite television channel from Doordarshan dedicated to agriculture, to address distressed farmers. A forward-looking farm policy would minimise the use of toxic chemicals, and encourage organic methods where they are efficacious. This will benefit both farmer and consumer.
Exposure: the state of being exposed to contact with something.
Example: The dangers posed by exposure to asbestos
Synonyms: subjection, vulnerability, laying open
Evident: plain or obvious; clearly seen or understood.
Example: She ate the cookies with evident enjoyment
Synonyms: obvious, apparent, noticeable, conspicuous, perceptible
Rely: depend on with full trust or confidence.
Example: I know I can rely on your discretion
Synonyms: depend on, count on, bank on, place reliance on, reckon
Unscrupulous: having or showing no moral principles; not honest or fair.
Example: These unscrupulous rulers violated every principle of Islam to survive in power.
Synonyms: unprincipled, unethical, immoral, conscienceless, shameless
Obsolete: no longer produced or used; out of date.
Example: The disposal of old and obsolete machinery
Synonyms: outdated, out of date, outmoded, old-fashioned
Feeble: lacking physical strength, especially as a result of age or illness.
Example: My legs are very feeble after the flu
Synonyms: weak, weakly, weakened, frail, infirm, delicate
Spurious: not being what it purports to be; false or fake.
Example: Separating authentic and spurious claims
Synonyms: bogus, fake, false, counterfeit, forged, fraudulent, sham
Residue: a small amount of something that remains after the main part has gone or been taken or used.
Example: Even when canned vegetables are rinsed small amounts of the residue remain.
Synonyms: remainder, remaining part, rest, remnant(s), surplus, extra
Incongruous: not in harmony or keeping with the surroundings or other aspects of something.
Example: The duffel coat looked incongruous with the black dress she wore underneath
Synonyms: out of place, out of keeping, inappropriate, unsuitable
Imperative: giving an authoritative command; peremptory.
Example: The bell pealed again, a final imperative call
Synonyms: peremptory, commanding, imperious, authoritative
Example: Isn’t it time to declare all such vessels outmoded , obsolete and a danger to peace?
Synonyms: out of date, old-fashioned, out of fashion, outdated
Efficacious: successful in producing a desired or intended result; effective.
Example: The vaccine has proved both efficacious and safe
Synonyms: effective, effectual, successful, productive, constructive, potent