Pesticide Ban

Context: Recently, the long-pending ban on 27 widely-used pesticides, which includes 12 insecticides, 8 fungicides and 7 herbicides, is poised to take final shape with the Centre having already issued a draft order banning the manufacturing and sale of these on grounds of the grave risk they pose to humans and animals.

Status of Use of Pesticide in Punjab as compared to the rest of the country

  • Punjab has just 1.53 per cent of the country’s area while pesticide usage stood at 9.2 per cent of the country in 2018-19 and over 8 per cent in 2019-20.
  • According to the Directorate of Plant Protection, consumption of chemical pesticides in the country was 59,670 metric tonnes (MT) in 2018-19 and 60,599 in 2019-20, while in Punjab, it was 5,543 MT last year and around 4,930 MT in 2019-20.
  • The state of Punjab used up 5,689 MT in 2014-15, and stands at third in usage after Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, but both states have a 6-times larger area as compared to Punjab.
  • In Punjab, pesticide consumption is said to be decreasing but it is still continuous and excessive.
  • Punjab use around 3 per cent of the country’s usage of bio-pesticides which has increased from 136 MT in 2014-15 to 246 MT in 2018-19 and 286 MT in 2019-20.

Issues associated with Draft Order Banning Pesticides

  • The “sudden ban” will not only render investments by the industry wasteful, but also cause loss of export earnings for India.
  • It will impact emergency control of invasive pests, such as locusts, and widespread use of fungicides (such as thiram) for seed treatment.
  • The manufacturing and sale ban allowing only the export of the 27 molecules will erode the industry’s global competence in the generics market.
  • The pesticide manufacturers alleged that the ban will create a massive setback for Indian farmers amid the Covid-19 crisis and the upcoming kharif crop season.
  • The banning of the pesticide will lead to an additional burden on farmers as the 27 pesticides cost Rs 350-450 per litre while the alternatives are imported and cost Rs 1,200-2,000 per litre.
  • The ban will increase farm input cost of farmers who are affected by lockdown to contain the spread of locust, apart from various other threats to their crops.
  • The pesticides listed for ban account for 40 percent of the domestic market and the alternative available to the farmers will be branded, readymade and expensive ones produced by the MNCs.
  • If the 27 pesticides are banned in India, the entire export market of these products worth Rs 12,000 crores will go to China, which is the main competitor of India in the global market.

Why Banning Manufacturing and Sale of 27 Pesticides?

  • The short-term profits for the industry cannot be the reason to take away the right to life of agricultural workers and farmers, or to do irreparable harm to the environment.
  • Most the pesticides did not undergo any bio-safety assessment and were “deemed to be registered” when India introduced the Insecticides Act in 1968.
  • Out of the 27 pesticides which are proposed to be banned three are Monocrotophos, Methomyl and Carbofuran which are associated with high levels of toxicity leading to even farmers’ deaths.
  • The three pesticides i.e. Monocrotophos, Methomyl and Carbofuran, have also been declared as extremely hazardous or highly hazardous by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Anupam Verma Committee Report on Banning Pesticides

  • It was constituted by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare in 2013 to review 66 pesticides.
  • The pesticides have been barred or restricted for use in farming in other countries.
  • The committee recommended a ban on 13 ‘extremely hazardous’ pesticides, phasing out of six ‘moderately hazardous’ ones by 2020.

Alternatives Methods available to Farmers

  • The adoption of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques which are using cost-effective mechanical methods.
  • Under IPM, simple hand-picking, light traps, pheromone traps, sticky traps, glue boards etc. are used to control pests.
  • Under IPM, heavy reliance needs to be placed upon ‘monitoring and surveillance’ of the crops and fields.
  • The availability and use of bio-pesticides should be promoted by the government among the farmers.
  • Neem-based biopesticides, which are environment-friendly, is very effective cost-wise and yield-wise.
  • The farmers also attract birds by installing ‘dana ghar’ (seed shelters) in the fields and such birds consume the harmful insects in fields.
  • The right kind of seeds and precise irrigation can also help farmers keep the pests away.
  • The regular monitoring & surveillance can make farmers aware of the presence of pests and insects in the field at an early stage, which helps them arrest the problem before it crosses the Economic Threshold Level (ETL) of the presence of these pests.

Source: The Indian Express

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