SC notice to Centre on plea alleging overuse of pesticides on crops and food items

Published - May 18, 2024 04:51 pm IST - New Delhi

Just as air pollution, contamination of food and foods crops is a silent killer, the plea said.

Just as air pollution, contamination of food and foods crops is a silent killer, the plea said. | Photo Credit: G.P. Sampath Kumar

The Supreme Court on May 17 sought response from the Centre and others on a plea claiming overuse of pesticides and other chemicals on crops and food items is resulting in deaths across the country.

A bench comprising Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justices J.B. Pardiwala and Manoj Misra issued notices to the Union government, Ministry of Agriculture, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and others while seeking their replies to the plea.

Senior advocate Anitha Shenoy told the court that the petitioner has collected data from across the country showing a very high number of deaths due to pesticides.

The top court was hearing a plea filed by advocate Akash Vashisht.

“The use and overuse of pesticides and inorganic chemical substances, including insecticides, weedicides, fungicides, rodenticides, herbicides or any other inorganic chemical substances, on food crops and food items has emerged as the primary and predominant cause of causing cancers and other fatal ailments in the country.”

"The use and overuse of pesticides, in other words, inorganic substances, is food pollution. Just as air pollution, contamination of food and foods crops is a silent killer. Once food or a food crop is contaminated with pesticides, its toxicity spreads quickly across the entire food chain, through processes such as bio-accumulation and bio-magnification. The toxic elements and compounds in the food, once after entering the human body can neither be ejected nor rejected," the plea said.

Referring to FSSAI data, the plea said out of 72,499 food samples analysed during 2015-16, 16,133 were found adulterated or misbranded.

The plea said the authorities filed 1,450 criminal and 8,529 civil cases, leading to conviction in 540 cases.

During 2016-17, 18,325 of 78,340 samples were found adulterated or misbranded. Altogether 13,080 cases were filed, leading to 1,605 convictions, it said.

Despite such enormity, scale and seriousness of the issue, the Central government and its authorities have completely failed to prevent, control and abate the rising incidence of use and overuse of pesticides, the petition stated.

Referring to data provided by the Directorate of Plant Protection, Quarantine & Storage, the plea said as many as 161 people died in 2020-21 due to poisoning by pesticides across three states alone, out of the eight reported states in the country- Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Kerala, Meghalaya, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and West Bengal.

"Issue direction to revamp the existing regulatory framework related to the use and overuse of pesticides and other inorganic chemical substances, including insecticides, weedicides, fungicides, rodenticides, herbicides or any other inorganic chemical substances, on food crops and food items," the plea said.

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