Pesticide Trap

Down to Earth

India extensively uses pesticides banned globally, show RTI responses

In May when Kerala banned seven highly toxic insecticides so that it switches to safer chemicals, it did not fare better. It ended up replacing them with six others, banned or severely restricted in most parts of the world.

For instance, it replaced carbofuran, a pesticide that affects the nervous system and is highly toxic to birds and bees, with quinalphos and carbosulfan, which impact the nervous and endocrine systems (see ‘Kerala’s faulty choice’).

Currently 67 such pesticides, banned or restricted abroad, including in the EU and the US, are in use in India. But this information is not there in the public domain. The government's response to RTI (right to information) applications filed by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a Delhi non-profit, reveals names of the pesticides. Most of them are used extensively in the country.

The list includes insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and plant growth regulators that are known to damage the nervous system, induce genetic disorders, wreck the reproductive system, can cause cancer and are toxic to bees and aquatic animals (see ‘Controversial 67’).

Consider chlorpyriphos. This pesticide is banned for domestic purposes in the US, but is allowed in India for getting rid of termites and borers. Because of its unrestricted use traces of chlorpyriphos are found in fruits, vegetables and food grains beyond the maximum residue limits (MRL) permissible in food items, shows the pesticide monitoring report of the All India Network Project on Pesticide Residues for 2009-10. Chlorpyriphos is known to affect nervous system and is a suspected hormone system disruptor.

Endosulfan, another controversial agrochemical that induces genetic disorder and was voted to be banned globally at the Stockholm Convention in April, was a widely used pesticide in the country until May when the Supreme Court ordered a temporary ban.

Answering a question in the Rajya Sabha in March, Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar admitted that the government was aware that pesticides banned in other countries were being used indiscriminately in India. However, he justified their use saying the government appoints expert groups from time to time to review the pesticides that are reported to cause any adverse effect or are banned or severely restricted in other countries. Action is taken on the basis of these recommendations, Pawar had said.

No doubt, the agriculture ministry has formed several expert committees over the years to review these controversial pesticides. But they have failed to yield any results. Barring a few like DDT, methyl parathion and monocrotophos that are allowed for restricted use, others have been permitted to continue.

In 1995, an expert committee headed by agriculture scientist K V Raman recommended that alachlor (herbicide) and phosphomidon (insecticide) be banned. But they are yet to make it to the list of banned pesticides put on the website of the Central Insecticides Board and Registration Committee.gdians.ry.that GM food poses.




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