Can’t avoid pesticides, say farm experts

August 19, 2016 01:03 am | Updated 01:03 am IST - NEW DELHI:

Parliament’s Standing Committee on Agriculture may have expressed concern at the unscientific and excessive use of pesticides in agriculture that pose a threat both to the environment and human health. But experts say their judicious use, combined with safe agricultural practices, is the only way out as the country’s growing demand for food cannot be met through organic farming.

In its recently presented report in Parliament for 2015-16, titled “Impact of chemical fertilizers and pesticides on agriculture and allied sectors in the country,” the panel said fertilisers and pesticides changed the face of agriculture by enhancing production and productivity, but excessive and unscientific use of pesticides caused tremendous harm to the environment and affected human population indirectly.

The report says since pesticides are mostly non-biodegradable and persist in the environment, there is the possibility that they will enter human blood by the process of bio-magnification and through the food chain.

Need for scientific use

“Human health and food safety, both are important, and therefore there is an imperative need for promoting scientific use of pesticides in agriculture. Relying entirely on organic farming is not a practical solution, as we need to feed a growing population,” agriculture expert and member of the Uttar Pradesh Planning Commission, Sudhir Panwar, told The Hindu . There must be efforts therefore to create awareness among farmers about the scientific use of pesticides.

The report points out that the use of pesticides has been an integral part of the green revolution strategy. They not only enhanced food grain production by reducing losses to weeds, diseases and insects, but also helped improve the quality of the crops. However, unscientific use of pesticides such as organochlorine and pyrethroids can cause cancer, besides neurological and endocrine system disorders.

“Heavy use of pesticide in agriculture has contaminated soil, water, air and the food chain... Remedies are many... The most important among them is to ban pesticides whose bad effects are well known and are already banned in the western world,” said Lakhwinder Singh, professor with the Punjabi University, who has been extensively working on agricultural issues.

“Educating the farmers and agriculture labourers for minimizing the use of pesticides and strengthening our agriculture research and extension system is the need of the hour,” he said.

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