Use trade agreements to acquire technologies, says Mullakkara Ratnakaran

The Centre should help Kerala access the bio-pesticide technologies used by European countries to stand in for the nearly two dozen banned chemical pesticides, Agriculture Minister Mullakkara Ratnakaran has said.

Mr. Ratnakaran told The Hindu that many European countries had banned these ‘Red' and ‘Yellow' pesticides long ago and had found alternatives, mainly bio-pesticides, which were harmless to humans and the environment.

He noted that the highly toxic Furadan, a widely used insecticide in Kerala, had been banned by several countries. In place of Furadan, which Kerala banned recently, these countries had been using less-harmful alternatives which could be copied here. “The Government of India should acquire such technologies using the bilateral or multilateral trade agreements and transfer them to the States,” he said. “In view of the global ban on endosulfan, the Centre should set an example by acquiring such green technologies and encouraging States to produce bio-pesticides,” he said.

Mr. Ratnakaran agreed that, in the wake of the ban on highly toxic pesticides, there would be a shortage of pesticides in the short term. The shortage could be overcome in six months by finding less-harmful alternatives and encouraging farmers to use the currently available organic pesticides and developing new bio-pesticides. He pointed out that the Central Tuber Crops Research Institute at Sreekaryam, Thiruvananthapuram, had discovered the pesticide potential of tapioca leaves. The Minister said he had asked the Kerala Agricultural University to try it out quickly. The university had been asked to come up with a new package of practices regarding its application.

The Minister said he had asked his department to create take steps to create awareness among farmers about the bio-pesticides available. They should also be told about ‘Yellow' and ‘Green.'

Officials had been asked to explore the possibility of providing insurance cover to farmers whose harvests get reduced due to the non-application of chemical pesticides, Mr. Ratnakaran said.

The Centre should take steps to use Hindustan Insecticides Ltd facility to manufacture bio-pesticides, he said.