Study reveals unsafe use of pesticides 

Demand for ban on four pesticides considering their toxicity, unscientific use 

Published - August 12, 2022 07:26 pm IST - Thrissur

A study by the Pesticide Action Network India (PAN India) has revealed unscientific and unsafe use of hazardous pesticides and their poor regulations.

The study focussed on the widespread unauthorised use of four pesticides – two insecticides namely chlorpyrifos and fipronil and two herbicides atrazine and paraquat dichloride. PAN India has recognised these four agrochemicals as highly hazardous pesticides as they pose severe acute as well as chronic harm to human health and environment, says A.D. Dileep Kumar, who prepared a report based on the study.

The report addresses regulations and use of the four highly hazardous pesticides in the country based on a field study in Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and West Bengal.

“There are indiscriminate violations of national regulations of use of these pesticides. Chlorpyrifos has been approved for 18 crops, fipronil for nine crops, atrazine for one crop, and paraquat dichloride for 11 crops. But the study reveals many unapproved uses of these pesticides in food and non-food crops. Strangely even State agriculture departments/universities recommend use of them for more crops than their approved uses,” says Mr. Dileep Kumar.

The alarming use of pesticides for unapproved crops poses serious questions on the safety of the agriculture produce and environmental contamination. The maximum residue level (MRL) for agriculture produce is monitored based on the approved uses and, therefore, non-approved uses largely remain unmonitored for the MRL, which is a serious food safety concern. The high use of pesticides also adversely affects the export market of agri produces, he says.

“Unscientific use and handling of chemical pesticides make the ecosystem unhealthy. The use of highly hazardous pesticides and human health damage can be a pointer in policy making,” says Indira Devi, ICMR Emeritus Professor, Kerala Agriculture University, releasing the report.

The study indicates problems related to usage in the fields that results in exposure and poisoning, including lack of training on use and safety precautions. “We have to properly train and licence the farm force for pesticide application, which should be monitored by the agriculture department and local self-government institutions,” says Dr. Indira Devi.

“Drones are used extensively in agriculture now. The use of drones in chemical pesticide application needs to be allowed only after scientific studies related to straying and its potential environmental damage.”

About 40% of the total registered pesticides in India are categorised as highly hazardous owing to their potential to cause health and environmental damage. Poor pesticide management results in exposure of farmers and farm workers, contamination of agri produce and environmental pollution. About 20% of farmers and 44% of farm workers participated in the study had health issues, says Dr. Dileep Kumar.

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