Opinion » Columns

Updated: July 23, 2012 15:54 IST

The Amir Khan column: Taking the poison out of our food

Comment (76)   ·   print   ·   T  T  
Aamir Khan.
Aamir Khan.

I personally feel we have no option but to move gradually towards organic farming.

I am not someone who usually goes shopping for vegetables or even other food stuff. My present professional requirements don’t allow me this luxury. But I remember when I was a child I would often accompany my mother or my aunt when they went shopping for vegetables, fruits and other food stuff. I remember being thoroughly bored during these trips. They would spend hours selecting vegetables, examining each fruit or vegetable with great interest, pointing out flaws and insisting on the best quality and the most fresh food, and constantly comparing the quality offered by different sellers. All this while my friends were waiting for me to join them for a game of cricket! Today when I pass Khar market [in Mumbai], or the road that leads to Khar Telephone Exchange on Linking Road, which is lined by vegetable and fruit sellers, I look at all the women doing exactly what my mother and aunt used to do and it takes me down memory lane to those afternoons or evenings spent following them around carrying heavy bags. How much time our homemakers spend in selecting fresh food for us — little do we realise that no matter how fresh the vegetable or fruit maybe, it may still contain high levels of poison in it.

We can test the freshness of a fruit by holding it, smelling it, giving it a soft squeeze, checking for bumps and spots and bruises. But how do we check the level of pesticides contained in it?

Why do we eat food? Obviously, because our body needs the nutrition in order to survive. Nutritious food contributes to our physical and mental growth, our well-being, our ability to fight diseases, etc. But if we consume large amounts of pesticide along with our food, then along with nutrition we are also consuming poison, and that defeats the very purpose of eating the food in the first place.

Green Revolution

In the 1960s, India experienced what was called the Green Revolution. Policy makers at that time felt that in order to feed the growing population in India, we needed to increase the productivity and per acre yield. In order to achieve this result, interventions were made in traditional natural organic farming — interventions that were big on chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Pests or insects damage our agricultural produce by feeding on it. To destroy or kill these pests we use what are called pesticides. Pesticides are basically poison to kill the insects. Apparently, of all the pesticide sprayed on the crop, only one per cent of it actually falls on the insect. As much as 99 per cent of it falls on the crop, gets absorbed in the soil, and/or water, gets carried a little distance by wind, etc. In this manner it gets into our food and, thereby, into us.

Nature has its own way of keeping a balance and therefore, each one of these pests which destroys our crops, also has predators. So broadly speaking there are two kinds of pests — vegetarian pests or those that feed on our crops, and non-vegetarian pests or those that feed on the pests that feed on our crops. A pesticide does not distinguish between veg and non-veg pests. It’s a poison that kills both. So having killed our friend insects we are then left with those pests which have survived the onslaught of the pesticide. Their survival creates resistance in them to these pesticides, and to kill the same insects you have to spray more pesticides. It’s a vicious circle. A circle from which we have consistently been removing our friendly insects; a circle which perhaps also results in us consuming more pesticides.

Plight of the farmer

If pesticides in our food affect us, how does it affect our farmers? Well the people spraying pesticides are in the immediate vicinity of the pesticide and therefore are much more exposed to it than us, the consumer. This is cited as one of the major health hazards for persons engaged in farming. Also, one of the stated reasons for farmer indebtedness is the huge cost of pesticides. An experiment with non-pesticide farming done in Andhra Pradesh which began with a few villages on 225 acres has been so successful that it has now spread across 35 lakh acres! And this has been possible because of the effort of a women’s collective across villages with the support of the Andhra Pradesh government. Sikkim is the first State in India to go fully organic, with more States seriously looking to make the shift.

The arguments for and against pesticides are many and have been dealt with in great detail on our show. For me, the choice is simple: I personally feel we have no option but to move gradually towards organic farming. And, until such time that we are fully organic, we need a government regulatory authority to do monthly checks on the food coming into wholesale markets across the country in all the different cities, and to monitor the amount of pesticide in our food.

In the meantime, live with this report from the Centre for Science and Environment: assuming that the pesticide content in each and every food product we consume does not exceed the MRL (Maximum Residue Limit) of pesticide in our food, and is at permissible level, even then, anyone with an average daily intake of various foods, will exceed the ADI (Acceptable Daily Intake) of pesticides by approximately 400 per cent!

(Aamir Khan is an actor. His column will be published in The Hindu every Monday.)

More In: Columns | Opinion | Comment

In India, a current for organic farming is gaining strength supported by environmentalists and some scientists. Amir Khan finds it convenient to swim with the current. There are fifteen different scientific reasons why organic farming is not good for India. Space allows me to give only two here.
1. Plants cannot consume food in organic forms, but only in inorganic ionic forms. Organic forms are converted to inorganic forms by the whims and fancy of the soil bacteria before plants can use. Plants need certain nutrients at a certain window in their growth period, which the bacteria won’t be able to deliver, affecting crop yields.
2. Organic farming mostly depends on cow dung. The rice straw fed to cows has low nutrient content because Indian soils have low nutrient content and rice crop removes some. Of this most go to the grain and only a little to the straw which the cows remove by eating. What is left behind in the dung has no nutrient value except some nitrogen from cow’s urine.

from:  Dr. Lux
Posted on: Jun 27, 2012 at 21:20 IST

I fully concur with the views of Amir on the use of pesticides. In fact, we can trace the use of pesticides to increasing incidents of cancer. i hope the government wakes before it is too late.

from:  chandran k
Posted on: Jun 27, 2012 at 16:48 IST

i agree with one of the reader.
Aamir khan should stop promoting Cola drinka which carry more amount of pesticides which is really dangerous to human beings.
Would make more sense if you stop promoting pesticides.
Charity begins at home, sir.

from:  Alkesh
Posted on: Jun 27, 2012 at 16:41 IST

First of all, thanks to Mr. Aamir khan for bringing this issue in front
of people. I agree with Sathiya that, hardly anyone who is reading this
article is farmer! So, surely, this discussion is not reaching to them.
But, that is why the show 'Satyamev Jayate' is there. It is shown on
multiple channels simultaneously, in HINDI language (dubbed if
necessary) so that everybody will understand it and I think the
producers are taking all the necessary measures to make sure that all
the issues discussed in the show, reach to that people concerned (be it
farmers, common man or politicians)!
Now coming to the present issue of pesticides in food, I would like to
share this good thing that the remedies for this are simple and
practical to be implemented. I am myself a chemical engineer. I know at
what scale the pesticides and other fertilizers are produced in
chemical industry ( it is hundreds of tonnes per day)& so I think if
that much of chemicals are going into food, it is a concern!. A simple solution for above stated problem is, to produce organic
pesticides and fertilizers on large scale, just like the chemical
fertilizers are produced. For this, someone needs to take initiative.
It is easy to make if everyone in village contributes to it, in terms
of cow-dung and capital cost. Producing it on even large scale will
reduce its cost too and can make it compete with the chemical
equivalents used in farming. But a big problem in implementing this
will be the pressure from large chemical manufacturers. So the
government policies should take care of this. If the government
policies allow the farmers to sustain their lives with carrying on the
same profession as they are in (farming), then only they will be able
to make any experiments or try any new changes in the way of farming.
So, unless and until someone in the market takes the initiative (and
the responsibility)to produces organic substitutes for these chemicals,
implementing it will remain difficult!

from:  vivek patil
Posted on: Jun 27, 2012 at 10:43 IST

Joseph Kennedy, the father of the President Kennedy said something to the effect, " There is a price for everything. If you pay the price you can get anything. " Pertinent point is one may be forced to choose between costly but poisonless food and less expensive but poisonous food. Sad irony is that the price may not have anything to do with the cost of production. The very fact people want something will make its price go up. Unleaded petrol used to cost more than leaded petrol. To have unpublished telephone numbers cost more than to have published telephone numbers.

from:  T.S.Krishnaswamy
Posted on: Jun 27, 2012 at 04:01 IST

Dear Aamir, Good article and initiative indeed. The world was shocked
when reports of deformed babies from Kasargod in Kerala came out due to
exposure to the deadly Endosulfan. It is sad Indian government tried its
best to fight the ban against Endosulfan, even when almost all countries
had banned it. Thank God, we had our watchdog Supreme Court to our
rescue. Celebrities like you can mobilize public opinion against such
burning issues. Thanks.

from:  Sharat Marar
Posted on: Jun 27, 2012 at 00:43 IST

Aamir Khan was born in 1960s when India was experiencing not only Green Revolution, but also rapid population growth. India's population grew from about 30 crores in 1940's to about 50 crores by late 1960s and to 110 crores now. High Population growth is a result of two factors: (1) healthy reproductive rate of young and middle-age couples, and (2) people have been living longer (life expectancy improved from mid 60's to 70's or higher since 1960s. That means that people have been getting adequate, healthy and nutritious food after Green Revolution, not before. The article misses this important fact, and takes us to a fantasy land of "organic farming" which has no capacity feed 1.1 billion people in India. Organic foods are for the elite, not for common folks.

from:  Govinda
Posted on: Jun 27, 2012 at 00:28 IST

Its very simple to say that there will research labs and government
will look into the cholesale food that is coming to the market but it
is very hard to put it into practice. i live in a community which
consists of around 10,000 members maximum and here also we can't
assure that we are eating food without pesticides even though we have
separate farms, dairies. if even a small community can't assure the
food without any pesticide how is it possible to do it in such a grand
the simple thing to say is that the community is mismanaged but with
the same logic our government is doing the same with the country. if
the people of the country dont think it necessary to change their food
habits then the government cant do anything because finally India is
suppose to be a country for the people and by the people.

from:  Shamik
Posted on: Jun 27, 2012 at 00:12 IST

i am in fear that corporate are lobbying indirectly for control of food supply chain in India ( through pso called Reliance foundation ( fishy foundation ) in the name of organic farming ........One must understand the hidden agenda behind the fishy foundation other eg of such fishy foundation is bill gates and her daughter fishy foundation ..and i read some article abt that...thats why i am bit worry..

from:  ashutosh
Posted on: Jun 26, 2012 at 17:47 IST

Well intended, but rambling and not incisive enough. Even traditionally, we have always fought with pests whether inside our homes, in factories where we work or in farms. There have been traditional anti-pest remedies like neem and others. Birds and other pest eating insects, which the author refers to. So, pests have to be contained and crops protected and therefore farmers use pesticides, whether with man-made chemicals or natural. Is there enough natural pesticide available? How do they compare in costs with the chemical pesticides?

Slamming a whole industry may not be well founded. What about other industries like tobacco (a strong case to shut it down), the auto industry (can we limit the number of vehicles produced?), even cell phones have reportedly some adverse health effects!br/>Finally, the farmer has to make a choice to enhance his yield and protect his crop - he should be secure and earn well. Can organic farming assure him that?

from:  varadarajan raman
Posted on: Jun 26, 2012 at 15:16 IST

Aamir Khan has taken up a great cause which will go a long way in educating the
people about the 'health' of food items. While many instances have been brought
out about the danger caused to general health by excessive use of pesticides, the
govt for long has never cared to address those issues. Majority of farmers don't
get to know about the ill effects of pesticides for both govt agencies & marketing
companies stress about increasing farm yields but dont advise on the need for
limited use of pesticides just to drive away insects & excess spraying get into the
produce causing serious health hazards to consumers. Sad that many farmers &
family also suffer due to cancer. It is very unfortunate that IARI, ICARI or even
Health depts have not laid mandatory checks on 'safe'usage of pesticides by the
farmers. Politicians who own excessive agricultural lands, much more than the
farmers, must take most of the blame as they have not cared about the matter for
fear of reduced farm income.

from:  SR Sankaran
Posted on: Jun 26, 2012 at 13:49 IST

Thanks Aamir, for the wonderful show and accompanying article. I say
wonderful, and not insightful, because for me, promoting organic food
and opening people's eyes to the horrors of chemical pesticides has
been a part of my life for the last 2 years. Through my website and social media, I've been pushing the cause of chemical
free food around me.
Its still unfortunate that while even illiterate farmers understand
that chemicals are not good for their personal consumption, it is
difficult to convince educated financially well off people why
chemicals in their food are such an evil. That has been the bane of
the organic food industry and that is where Aamir's involvement in
this issue has brought a new interest which is super!

from:  Vandana Sudhakar Dutt
Posted on: Jun 26, 2012 at 11:53 IST

The use of pesticides and chemical fertilisers in farming is akin to a man riding a tiger to reach his destination. He can neither continue his ride indefinitely nor dismount as everyone knows what the tiger will do to him.In the same way we cannot continue use of pesticides except at the risk of personal health in the long run nor can we dispense with pesticides which plays an essential part in food production.Right from seeding,raising crops and storage of lacks of bags of food grains in warehouses till they reach the consumers they face exposure to pesticides,gassing/fumigation with attendant consequences.Organic farming is desirable but it is doubtful whether at a national scale it will be possible to find so much of manure.What is practicable is to reduce the potency of pesticides and ban production of patently harmful ones.

from:  G.Jagannathan
Posted on: Jun 26, 2012 at 11:43 IST

Great article sir,
Sir I would like to give one suggestion.That is, in our country agriculture is the main occupation of villagers.All educated people migrate to towns,cities but the people who are uneducated are still lead their life through agriculture.That means they don't know english much in my opinion.So better to publish these articles in different different languages like telecasting of "SATYAMEV JAYATE".
Jai Hind

from:  sravanthi
Posted on: Jun 26, 2012 at 08:40 IST

Dear Aamir,
Thank you for the episode and article on such an important topic. It's much complicated than it looks. As we saw a glimpse on the show, there is a strong corporate lobby, domestic and now international, which will do its best to influence the policies to maintain or promote pesticide driven and now Genetically Modified based agriculture. It's interesting that the developed countries are moving towards organic and local food, while our governments are hell bent to promote chemical and GM agriculture. As you rightly said on TV, if people become aware and demand organic food, the governments will bow to people's demands rather than their foreign masters. I hope the good sense prevails among our leaders and they stop promoting interests of corporates and start protecting the citizens who trusted them! An episode on farmer suicides will be of great value to awaken the nation to misery. Work of P. Sainath published in "The Hindu" will be great resource. Jai Hind! Satyamev Jayate!

from:  Kumar
Posted on: Jun 26, 2012 at 08:17 IST

i agree with this article.india is country of villages & here 75% people depends on agreculture.pesticides is the special kinds of products for crop protection.govt need to trend the farmers for organic should be implemented organic farming in all regions in india.

from:  priti.
Posted on: Jun 26, 2012 at 07:37 IST

The use of pesticides and chemical fertilisers is akin to a man riding a tiger to reach his destination. Once he reaches his destination he has to dismount.Everyone knows what the tiger will do after he dismounted.Same is the case with getting away from pesticides. To ward off the ill effects of pesticides and chemical manure,it will be good to switch back to organic farming but I doubt whether there is enough organic manure at hand to meet the requirement of farmers.Granting that there is enough of it whether the crops so raised will withstand the attack of pests which might have taken newer avataars over the past 50 years by evolution.What is practicable is reduce the potency of pesticides and ban what is patently harmful to health. health.

from:  G.Jagannathan
Posted on: Jun 26, 2012 at 06:06 IST

It has become fashionable to talk about organic farming these days. What is needed is a balance between the use of pesticides and preserving the ecology. The need for a self control mechanism for dosage of pesticides is the need of the hour. Aamir Khan did strike a balance in the end of the program but went overboard in playing to the gallery in the initial stages of the program. Balance in thinking and thought process is lacking in our country even among the literates. Anchors should therefore be careful in what they project in the media and ensure the total picture is not distorted. Given the population if sufficient vegetables,fruits and food grains are not grown the prices will sky rocket and hoarders and black marketeers would have a bonanza. The lesson to be learnt is to evolve a regulatory system prescribing the right dosage like medicine and ensure that it is scrupulously followed by every person engaged in agriculture. Athivrishti is bad as Anavrishti!

from:  R.Vijaykumar
Posted on: Jun 26, 2012 at 05:53 IST

It's indeed a multifaceted problem. With the cultivatable land and the
water table decreasing every year, there is a pressure to increase the
output per acre of land. Because the output of organic farming is low,
the product should be sold at higher price. But unfortunately I don't
think there is a market for organic products and people are not
willing to pay an additional premium to buy such products, making the
organic farmers to compete head-on with other farmers. With the
inflation so high, it is hard to afford fresh produce as it is, leave
alone organic produce. Policy makers should consider providing subsidy
to organic farmers to encourage them while trying to curb the
inflation. There is a huge demand for organic produce overseas, so may
be the farmers who don't see any domestic market can export their

from:  Ashwin Mahavadi
Posted on: Jun 26, 2012 at 05:10 IST

Both Aamir Khan and all the people commenting here who support him must all be arm-chair intellectuals living in their own narrow city life without the slightest idea of what it takes to grow vegetables and frutis in the real world. I am an NRI living in the U.S. I have a small 1 acre land where I grow fruits and veggies. Believe me, without pesticides and fertilziers, farmers would lose 90% of their crop. Insects are especially attracted to fruits trees, and once they take over, they multiply in millions and totally destroy crops. Ever heard of locust infestations? I've tried organic farming and have lost almost ALL apples due to one or more insect bites in each. Soon there will be more insects than leaves on those trees. Those who advocate organic farming in India are either completely ignorant of farming in tropical countries, or must want the Indian farmers to starve to death.

from:  K. Raghunathan
Posted on: Jun 26, 2012 at 03:53 IST

Farmer's livelyhood should improve along with awareness. Like more price for the crop that is cultivated as organic. We will need government policies supporting it.

Companies like Monsanto have set their roots for a long run selling pesticides and high yielding crops with Terminator gene. That need to be tackled too.

from:  Senthil Natarajan
Posted on: Jun 26, 2012 at 02:16 IST

AAMIR,Firstly great article and great episode of Satyamev jayatey. Kudos for creating this awareness among masses about health hazards of chemical usage in food industry .
Now I have a request, Please stop endorsing COCA-COLA or any other cola drinks. Thats another poison which is damaging the health of our people. You may have done this unknowingly in the past for whatever reasons. But if you "know" and agree about the health hazards of cola drinks on human health now then please acknowledge it and request everyone to refrain from excessive usage of cola drinks.
The good that you will do to the human kind by acknowledging that will far outweight any loss you may incur for breaching the contractual obligations with the coca cola company.

from:  Amit
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 23:43 IST

As agriculture is the backbone of economic growth of India; I think, this is one of the vital issue of concern. I believe that, in order to control the use of pesticides, some restrictions should be made to sell the pesticides. If they are not sold in the market then the farmers will think the alternate idea to improve their productivity. As it is sold in the market, most of the farmers opt for usage of pesticides to increase the productivity, and the one who cannot afford will suffer loss. In order the overcome the loss, the farmers who cannot afford to buy pesticides fall the prey of debt.Moreover, the consumers are also affected. Therefore, usage of pesticides have many ill efects.
Apart from this, I appreciate the way Mr. Rosh has chose as reflection of making choice of vegetables with politics. This is a wonderful analogy.

from:  Ashakiron
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 23:14 IST

Whole heartedly agreed that “we have no option but to move gradually
towards organic farming”. The whole communities are exposed to the
dangers of toxic agricultural chemicals which get absorbed into the
food chain. In many places trees have stopped bearing fruit because
the heavy use of pesticides has killed the pollinators – the bees
and butterflies. Pesticides and fertilizers costs a lot, loans
farmers need to invest in expensive modified seed varieties pushing
many into a spiral of debt. Crippling burden of loans are triggering
farmer suicides across the country. Organic farming could slashes
cultivation and input costs by up to 70 per cent due to the use of
cheaper, natural products like manure. It is increasing evidence
that chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides are proving
extremely harmful to health by entering the food supply, contaminate
water sources, harm the livestock, deplete the soil, devastate
natural eco-systems, and contaminate the food supply. In addition
there are over seven thousand chemical preservatives and additives
permitted in non-organic food including colorings, stabilizers,
fillers, residual antibiotics, hydrogenated fats, etc. most of which
are very dangerous to health.

from:  N.G. Krishnan
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 21:57 IST

Great job Aamir!! There might be more shades to the arguments but the broader perspective is definitely right.. we should move towards organic farming. One more wonderful thing common across all the episodes till now is how forward-thinking the North Eastern states are. It is heartening to see them get a lot of their basics right. Time we should take them more seriously and their leaders get more national exposure. Also, we should regularly have TV shows that compare various states about developmental issues and create a competition in the positive direction.

from:  syam
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 21:41 IST

Kudaface Aamir sir,
I am also a daughter of a farmer. If we don't use enough pesticides to our crop, definitely reduce the crop yield. I think so many farmers are all illiterate and uneducated. So, they don't know how to use pesticides and how much quantities of pesticides they must use. They are all trying to educate their children with their hard work. Those children knew about farming, pesticides and culturing. So those people should explain problems of pesticides to their parents and also uses of natural farming. Parents are also once think on this and follow your suggestions. And also who are studying higher studies suggest the farmers in your villages. Your talent is GOD'S gift to you, what you do with it is your gift back to GOD by using your talent to good things.
Shukriya Aamir Khan Sir,Jaihind SatyamevaJayate

from:  Madhavi
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 21:25 IST

An important correction is population increase and increasing food production to feed millions is hype . To sell fertilizes pesticides big corporates used the situation and journalists know nothing real and they started writing on this. If the Govt policies did not interrupt the farmers allowed free market for them the quality local food would have increased . As a farmer I hate to see journalists harping on this concept . You cannot hide truth with decor , those who know not truth will be doing against the green food .Let Aamir Khan get to facts and spread in new era, not just keep exposing hype .

from:  N.J.Bond
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 21:21 IST

Everybody wanted to make profit- unfortunately that is how the world work!!if we can get the news out, where farmers can make more profit out of organic farming, then market itself will take care of the toxins!!!
It is an excellent article- as usual you are doing a great job.
Thank you Amir.

from:  Sunil Tirur
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 21:18 IST

Amir Khan brings in to light the presence of poison in our food. But
action should be taken to educate and train the farmers for organic
farming and taking them away from these poisonous pattern of
cultivation. Organic farming is the traditional pattern of farming the
MNCs selling pesticides and fertilisers have changed the mindset of our
poor and innocent farmers.

from:  Sanjib Kumar Sahu
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 21:16 IST

There is nothing like a safe pesticide. It is a poison not a
medicine.It is unethical for our government to readily allow farmers
into the viscious cycle of using pesticides, which not only makes them
depend on companies, but also puts the consumer at great health risk.
The endosulfan story from Kerala and the Green Revolution from Punjab
should be a wake up call for all of us to demand food that is safe and
free from pesticides, chemicals or genetically modified organisms.

As for food production we have sustainable methods in this country
like the NPM that have worked and if production was the issue we
wouldn't hear stories of food grains rotting.

Also Sikkim as a State has declared itself organic, I don't see why
other States cannot take an initiative if the Centre will not budge on
the mindless use of pesticides

Congrats Mr Aamir Khan for such an eye opening episode and allowing
discussion on something as important as our food.

from:  Neha Saigal
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 20:36 IST

If we as a society are willing to have a preference for organic food,
the farmer can pass on the savings.As we look ahead into the next
century, leaders will be those who empower others.great going aamir

from:  rakesh yadav
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 20:21 IST

Amir, your effort to see such basic level issues and propose pragmatic
solutions for our enormously complex Indian system is laudable. Keep up
your good work.

from:  Venu Gopal Reddy Muvva
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 20:18 IST

But for human need many advancement in science and technologies , that We find to day,would not have seen the day light .True, but problem arise when human greed directs the flow of human need worldwide .When the brute force of intelligence leaves no room for wisdom and grace of human civilization ,things rotten .Rotten thoughts of depriving others from their right to lead a existence of minimum dignity pervade .In the name of technologies
many short sighted and unwholesome application of theories suffocate the air and triumph.Malady lies in allowing unbridled blind human greed to arbiter each and every issue between
life and death .Weak and vulnerable are being asked to sustain the mighty and the powerful.

from:  surajit patnaik
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 19:24 IST

Excellent read.
In case people are interested in knowing more about Organic farming,
they can read 'One Straw Revolution - an introduction to natural
farming' by Musanobu Fukuoka!

from:  Krishna
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 19:10 IST

I have come from agriculture family. For small farmers Agriculture results heavy bebts due to improper climate (no rain on time , winter is very cold) , labour shortage ( people become lazy due to availabiolity of free rice, some Central Govt. scheme which enables 100 days working (actually no one works but register their name and take 50% wages and balance 50% contractor (Village president) loots ),higher labour wages, no fixed time schedule for work, Higher fertiliser/pesticide costs etc.,

So small farmer use Chemicals to remove unwanted grass which comes out with the Crop - for every cultivation of crop. Further the cost of his material is decided by the market (buyer). So entire system is ineffective and farmer cannot immagine about Organic farming with his hell a lot of problems.

from:  Chandrakumar
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 18:51 IST

The topics you have selected are really unusual ,unthought of & really
so pertinent that most of the time,having seen your programmes / articles one cant help thinking that we simply cant & dont see the obvious.The Columbus is again sometimes needed to redefine our values,systems,our beliefs & practices.Please keep it up.The usual doses of violence,deaths,frauds (puntuated by incessant ads) depicted in the minutest details in tv/newspapers also need some refreshing air.We would love to have more from your side !

from:  Dipak Kr Bardoloi
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 18:02 IST

This is a very impotant issue of our day to day life.Look at why cancer has become like an epideic decease !
It si true,with increasing population,we have to increase the production of agriculture.The pendece on chemical ferilizers and pesticides have become unavoidable but at most what is required is their use more judicially and methodically.Also we have to think of our old sytem of increasing adriculture more seriosly.Pesticides like Neem Oil and fertilizers like manures and wood/coal ash must not been forgoton.Our scientists work out how to make manures from the waste of food manufacturing factories and hotel waste.Most important is to expand agriculture land,India being a big country.Govt must discourage the use of polluted food and drinks.Govt.must ban or control the advertising of things like pepsy and coke and certain manufactured food.

from:  Ashok
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 17:38 IST

Indeed,It is good article.Pesticides/fertilizers are one more tool from capitalist and neo-imperialistic to ransack our nation and farmers ,however it is useful but harmful also, and hence our Government should ponder over it.
I think the agriculture ministers of all states are not performing there duties towards growth of farmers.

Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 17:23 IST

I had food in Sikkim and i found it to be tasty than the food I use to have at my place. The reason could be that the food was organic. With food, we need to watch out for Milk which is also playing with our health. Firstly, the original milk itself is taken out after applying injections to the cattle. Secondly, the artificial milk, made of inconsumable material, is added to the original milk.

from:  Tapish
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 17:13 IST

who is responsible for it? Farmers ? retailers ? or any one else ? If you look this thing form ground level than you will come to know what's going on ? number of pesticides have been banned hence almost good companies have been stopped manufacturing particular pesticides. But numbers of third grade companies are continue manufacturing these. So one thing is very clear there is problem from Govt. side.They are not concern what the hell going on ground level.

from:  rahul gupta
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 16:52 IST


We must be grateful as there is someone to talk about these issues atleast for money. We have been independent for the past 65 years and been paying our MLAs and MPs (white money and black money). what did we get? This is where we are wrong. Everyone does something for something in return. How many times have you donated atleast 10% of your salary to poor? Its easy to advise others, mate.

from:  John
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 16:24 IST

Yes,It is true that pesticides destroys so many lives.Every one should have to use Organic fertilizers.These fertilizers give strength to the crops.We have to use Natural Predators who feed only pests not crops.It is very important to protect human lives.
Jaihind Satyamev Jayate.

from:  asma batool
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 15:57 IST

I request readers to visit for more information on this subject, a variety of reports and most importantly, to sign on a petition to the Agri Minister. Also leave a missed called at 022-3301 0031 to join the INDIA FOR SAFE FOOD movement.

from:  Kalpana
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 15:52 IST

really useful article... but most people who read this article will be a office goer and not a farmer... And i don't think we have farmers in our country who really reads English newspaper ... So it should be the people who read should take initiatives to let this thought reach farmers.

from:  sathiya
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 15:03 IST

Hi Aamir As much as you've tried to present the issue in a fair light, there are some facts which were overlooked. Blaming the Green Revolution point-blank is a mistake - the need of the hour was to generate enough food to feed the masses. India was heavily importing and it was literally 'from-ship-to-mouth' sustenance then. Fertilizers and pesticides were then suggested to improve productivity. Farmers were recommended appropriate doses for pesticides/fertilizers. And within limits, everything is good. But what happened was a lot of the farmers took to rampant misuse of chemicals (& abandoned caution) as well. Agr.Universities/institutions prescribe the proper dosage, methods and frequencies of using such chemicals. Farmers, out of ignorance (or greed) also pushed the limits. You failed to consider this. Also, land under cultivation is declining over the years, adding pressure to generate more food per acre. How will feed more mouths from decreasing cultivable land?

from:  Vinitha Valsalan
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 14:55 IST

First we have to educate the farmers about the side effects of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.Most of the farmers do not know how much chemical fertilizers and pesticides they to use.Due this they are using much more pesticides than required amount.And the Agricultural Scientists are not doing their job properly, they simple seating in office and simply getting salary.

from:  bns.naidu
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 14:50 IST

guys thanks for the insight and your views.Thanks again

from:  Abishkar
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 14:39 IST

Indeed, the problems mentioned above are only part of the malaise. Our agricultural system is seriously in need of an overhaul since 50 years now. The Green Revolution ushered is then was what one would call state-of-art, replacing the plough with the tractor and using chemical fertilizers and pesticides. All these moves have allowed us to produce enough to become self-sufficient. However, the average farmer is still miserable and crushed in debt, struggling to make ends meet. We need a large scale reform which puts the producer (farmer) and consumer at the center. Actually, the problems of our agricultural system are so immense that one could fill volumes with it and possible solutions. Organic farming has to be a part of the process although it by itself cannot make the decisive difference.

from:  Vivek
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 14:16 IST

Yes,Its important to take proper decision by the government to reduce the use of pesticides and to implement organic farming as Sikkim is doing.....but along with this Is it possible to implement organic farming in all the regions in india like Vidarbha where land is not having good productivity and for all the crops?

from:  Vaibhav Chormage
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 13:55 IST

No one can argue the need for providing the pesticide residue-free food, and to protect our environment, but consider 1. India needs to produce food with less than 4% of arable land available globally, but needs to feed 18% of world's population with increasing appetite for more protein-rich (non-veg) food that requires much greater primary production. The hunger index here is worse than even sub-Saharan Africa. 2. Safer pesticides exist, and we need better technology even to apply and manage them. Need of the hour is better stewardship. 3. Even organic foods can cause problem such as reported periodic E. coli epidemics. 4. The best policy is to allow both systems to co-exist. In hilly regions with more organic matter availability & cheaper labour, organic production system may be practical. In plains intensive agriculture will have to continue with moderate chemical inputs to avoid large-scale imports; here strengthen extension service & ensure better stewardship.

from:  N. Seetharama
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 13:22 IST

Is Amir Khan wanting to fool the people by having controversial subjects for his show. He declares that doctors are bad and they make money. He talks against pesticides. If he is really serious about serving people HE MUST NOT CHARGE ANY FEES FOR HIS SHOW. WILL HE DO IT

from:  krishnan
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 13:07 IST

Very rightly said, these fertilizers and pesticides are ruining the quality of soil, lessening their fertility then run down to the ground water to pollute it, running into ponds/lake to kill the aquatic animals along with polluting the drinking water source. Mr. Khan, rightly points out at the organic farming options, a very well idea would be the promotion of various organic manure which are vermicompost, use of vegetable wastes etc, which work more wonderful than chemicals and are natural. it is indeed nobody care about the pesticides level in our farmed fruits and vegetables, which are very hard to remove even though washing them. Hope someone listens.

from:  Rakesh
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 13:02 IST

We want the Organic farming, then we need more cow dung which means more cows.But we are also slaughtering them in thousands in modern slaughter houses.How we are going to achieve a complete organic farming?Mr Khan ,please look into this as the animals are slaughtered in thousands in modern mechanical slaughter houses when they can be put to a better use.

from:  Subramanian
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 12:59 IST

informative article.. hats off to Aamir khan. Satyamev jayate is an amazing platform where the social problems can be brought to the public..

from:  sampathkumar
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 12:58 IST

Excellent work by Sikkim government. All state governments should follow Sikkim example. An award at national level should be instituted for the best organic farmer and best organic farming state.

from:  Venkat
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 12:42 IST

With ADI of pesticides in our food exceeding by 400%, added to this the environmental pollution the we create by burning fossil fuel, use of plastic, cell phone and cell phone towers, I am sure the poison has entered the blood stream of fetus and after the child is born through breast feeding. To all the parents who adore their children, are we breeding towards extinction? Is this the legacy that we want to leave behind, with the future generation being born deformed, prone to affliction of all kinds of health hazards as they are being born vulnerable? Only today I read in some newspapers that a 20 year old has been diagnosed of breast cancer. Do we really love our children or are we being very selfish to have a comfortable life now and leave behind a horrendous legacy for the future generation? Is this an act of Karma, taking revenge on all of us? Can somebody quantify the excess of ADI from all the above and equate it to the number of cigarettes smoked?

from:  L S Jagadeesan
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 12:33 IST

Simple and very obvious points made brilliantly by the author. The moment we forget our roots, and become 'illiterate', there the problem arises. I can state that pesticides and stuff destroyed farming in kerala.The problem is farmers think if they spray chemicals and pesticides they don't have to do anything. Gone are the days when we used to think farmers earn their food the most and it would taste much better. Now they have become lazy [or illiterate or misguided] and are under the illusion that chemicals will solve all their problems.

from:  Ramachandra
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 11:48 IST

Amir Khan has been doing what many stalwarts could not, dared not knowing well things are rotten everywhere. Imagine while The pesticide chief Mr. Shroff was vehemently arguing FOR pesticides, IRONY emerged that none less than HIS BROTHER is engaged in doing ABSOLUTELY the other - green farming and being successful. How nice it was to see a muffled smile on Mr. Shroff's face ?

from:  Mayur Maru
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 10:44 IST

Hi Aamir, I second you. We have no option but to move towards organic farming. I wish you could also talk about Genetically modified food. Keep up the good work, Sir. We're supporting you. :)

from:  Ashish Agrawal
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 10:22 IST

The worthiness of 2 hours long march on a Sunday morning, carrying the heavy bag in one hand while escorting my father to the next vegetable vendor now seems acceptable. However, never thought that the hard work done under burning summer sun was all in vain. Most astonishing fact to fathom is how the farmers grow crops in separate lands- one to generate his 'home food' and the other one to poison nation's mood. Moreover, the current situation drills another hole in the government's policy shield, which never has been fruitful for the Indian citizens. I wish Amir's view raise some concerns, at least in the children of the policy makers, if not in the mind of elder corrupt babus.

from:  Gaurav Mishra
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 10:11 IST

The reasons are multifold.The cultivable land is sliding.The population is going on increasing.We need more food & we have to adopt intensive methods to increase production.Since the environment is totally polluted we have created more than enough germs &disease carrying pests&flea.Moreover our waste management is non-existant.We have forgotten methods like crop rotation.thus we effectively have developed an inclement atmosphere.We consume slow poison in the guise of foodstuff.Our totally insensitive to the issue.They are not even able to provide good potable water.Everything has to be cleaned.Though our life expectancy increased we have become living carriers of germs&virus.An all out awareness has to be created.Greenery development,involvement of citizens throu NGO,total underground drainage,effective waste management,recycling and govt's acceptance and wholehearted implementation of remedial measures are the need of the hour.We have only silly politicians.We need statesman.

from:  Ramalingam.V
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 09:58 IST

Dear Amir as I am from farmer family we are not interested use pesticides but without pesticides our production will be reduced to 50% with organic farming and due to cheap market price for our products we are already with heavy loss, Only middle man is profited. So I stopped farming and now working in company. Don,t worry about pesticide included food we wont get even that food in near future as most of current youngsters are not ready to do farming..If I was still doing farming I might not be able to pay my kids school fees...Kindly check with Farmers suicides you can get a shocking reports..Farming made me hard worker and now I can compete any one in any field..Thank you

from:  Senthil Kumar
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 09:57 IST

The most basic issue, we all have to think at every bit of our food intake was addressed very well. This is our starting step to bring ourselves back to the organic era. I hope we all will be in this remarkable journey.

from:  Balaraddi
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 09:55 IST

I am sure we have to move on into Organic farming but as a person coming for farming family i can say it will take more effort and raw materials availability is not at a surplus rate. Every state government has to take necessary reforms to move into organic farming gradually. Hoping the best future ......

from:  Vinothkumar Manoor Chinnasamy
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 09:55 IST

Dear Aamir--thanks so much for this 8th episode, possibly the best, along with the medical malpractices episode, or perhaps a degree better. I am a homemaker, very concerned about feeding healthy food to family--and this episode, your column--so much in tune with my thinking. Thanks for all the research and thought that went into this episode. I would like to share a bit of info about de-pesticide proofing our veggies and fruits. Apparently, one should soak them in a solution of white rock salt and water, for about 30 minutes, rinse thoroughly --and then use for salad or cooking, whatever. Certain veggies like broccoli,cabbage, cauliflower and the like need to be cooked a while in rock salted water and turmeric, the water drained before cooking; same treatment with spinach and any keerai/saag leaves.

from:  Lalitha Subramanian
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 09:20 IST

The issue is very complex and needs a lot more specialised attention Aaamir's articulation will terrify masses who have difficulty in appreciating that every human being is endowed with different immune system. In my opinion issue needs great deliberation among very objective and scientific community before brought to public domain by popular artist like Aamir who have unquestionable acceptance among masses.

from:  Daman Prakash Rathod
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 08:50 IST

The major challenge with most agriculture is supply-chain, and this impacts organics far more than 'regular' agriculture because of its shorter shelf life. In Bangalore the only neighborhood store carrying organic produce gets one delivery per week of vegetables, and they sell out in 30 minutes. They aren't able to procure more. Also, Organic Milk is the most important organic food we need to ask for, for reasons including the fact that it is used by children, and because of bio-magnification, i.e., cows eating chemicals and otherwise accumulating them. An easier starting point is to end the use of Bovine Growth Hormones (BGH).

from:  Rahul Tongia
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 08:40 IST

Mr.Aamir,Thanks for bringing this to limelight. I am from a farmer family ,still we are doing agriculture. Currently i am working in MNC.Popultation is keep on increasing and cultivatable land is keep on decreasing. Many real estate businessman causing more decline to agricultural land.Some strict measures need to be taken to control this real estate business as well as pollution casued by industries. There is no other way to produce more food to meet the needs of growing population without pesticide. Govt need to spend much on Agricultural universities to find pest resisitent varieties,high productivity varieties and drought resistence varities etc. More emphasis should be given towards agriculture. Students should be attracted towards agricultural courses."Agricultural research awards should be created".Pay scale should be increased to the level of IT who are working in agricultural development . so that we can solve this kind of problems. More awarness should be created

from:  Prakash
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 08:35 IST

Good advice. Without the use of pesticides and 'genetically modified seeds' (the goodness of which is still debated), the farmer will harvest vegetables & fruits that will not be uniform in shape, size and even quality. Just as humans, vegetables and fruits mature with warts and blemishes, which are Nature's signatures endorsing diversity. The farmer and her market-intermediary (shopkeeper) are not guilty for such 'crimes'. Why do the shopping ladies punish them by insisting to pick the best vegetables? Men are also guilty, perhaps to escape ridicule by the women-folk. The practice of caressing, squeezing, etc of vegetables/fruits must stop. If the ladies stop this finger exercise while shopping, the men are sure to follow, it will benefit the farmers to get a better price for their 'entire' produce. As a bonus, the ladies will be helping to eliminate the hazard of spreading harmful germs through unclean hands! Would Mr. Amir Khan endorse this suggestion as a logical extension of his.

from:  Periasamy
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 08:25 IST

Simple language used in the column makes every one to understand the issues in the present society.Around 2-3 years back, Aamir Khan acted in an advertisement to promote eating chips.Is it good to eat chips? What nutrition does they have? Is there any celebrity to promote taking natural food/drink items like coconut water or dates? I think nobody is there.

Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 08:18 IST

Many of us, who are blessed with some land should take up job of fertilizing a few organic crops of our daily use on our own. While raising awareness about importance of organic food in our lives, we could also teach while experiencing the growth of those crops, flowers the importance and beauty in Life, to our children and self. Being truly grateful for things we have is the hour of need. I don't believe this change would occur over night, but a sustained campaign with a group of dedicated people, sitting on the policy maker chairs, along with strong PR could help us get balanced price (not the extra hyped price that now is) for our daily food. PS Bravo to SMJ team. Well begin is half done. I would love to see in next few episodes of Mr Khan speaking about corruption in our judiciary/Police, about education industry (how delaaaaaayed justice or no justice) affects us and He and others make some movies about it, to feel good about it.

from:  Mirza
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 08:02 IST

Well said Amir, pesticides have intruded our life from food to water. But the same water is when used to make the cola drinks and now they have these harmful chemicals. This is a proven fact and in 2003 a Joint Parliamentary Committee too has confirmed this after thorough investigation. However under great pressure from cola MNCs the recommendations of JPC have not been implemented. not only pesticides, these cola drinks harm children's bone and tooth developed when consumed in excess. Now these drinks have got a status almost equal to food items in India. Heavy advertising by our so called icons is making the matter worse. (I wonder if you have subtly avoided this fact in the article!) In the wake of all this, I request you and many other filmstars and cricketers to stay away from advertising them. Otherwise, at least you, who is a brand ambassador of a drink, would be labelled as a big hypocrite.

from:  Dr.R.J.Abhijeet
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 07:44 IST

Aamir Khan is absolutely right. The relentless use of pesticides has caused enormous harm to our country. To make matters worse we continue to use certain pesticides that have been banned in the West long ago. In addition to the consumer, the health of the farmer has also been permanently affected. These toxins have polluted the water table and so the water consumed by the farmers from their wells cause many diseases. Even after many decades of organic farming it may not be possible to restore our farm lands and purify the water.

from:  Viswanath
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 06:34 IST

Exactly, we need to debunk the myth that only farms with pesticide use can somehow rescue India from poverty. NOT TRUE!!!

from:  Abner
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 06:03 IST

I am reading in another side.. to purchase our daily food ppl are spending time to choose right things but why they are not spending time to think about right leaders....

from:  Santosh
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 05:55 IST

Interesting article!!! We need people like you to open the eyes of people and perhaps invite more people to adopt a more scientific approach to agriculture. Because, agriculture is a science, first and foremost, and like any science is being misused. More of anything will not do any good, contrary to the popular belief. I believe, we can entirely do away with any thing that's not natural and orient our science to nature because nature itself has all the answers. Be it predatory insects,beneficiary plants, trap crops, altering the time of planting to escape pest attacks.. there are solutions. We all coexist on this planet, so cant we expect the same in agriculture?? Perhaps a bore hole on a brinjal should be more acceptable than a clean shiny one. At least we know, a caterpillar fed on it and perhaps would be a safer choice for us to eat.

from:  Rosh
Posted on: Jun 25, 2012 at 02:24 IST
Show all comments
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor



Recent Article in Columns

Anouchka Grose

Pencil erasers may be the ‘devil’

Rather than worrying that erasers will make our children failures, shouldn’t we be more afraid of making them cruel? »