The term pesticide covers a wide range of compounds including insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, rodenticides, molluscicides, nematicides, plant growth regulators and others.
The pattern of pesticide usage in India is different from that for world in general. In India 76% of the pesticide used as insecticide, as against 44% globally. The use of herbicides and fungicides is correspondingly less heavy. The main use of pesticides in India is for cotton crops (45%), followed by paddy and wheat.
If the credits of pesticides include enhanced economic potential in terms of increased production of food and fibre, and amelioration of vector – borne diseases, then their debits too have implications.
Ideally a pesticide must be toxic to pests and not to humans. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The rampant use of these chemicals has played havoc with human and other life forms.
There is overwhelming evidence that some of these chemicals do pose a potential risk to humans.
The high risk groups exposed to pesticides include production workers, formulators, sprayers, mixers, loaders and agricultural farm workers
OC compounds could pollute the tissues of virtually every life from on the earth, the air, the lakes and the oceans, the fishes that live in them and the birds that feed on the fish.
Certain environmental chemicals, including pesticides termed as endocrine disruptors, are known to elicit their adverse effects by mimicking or antagonizing natural hormones in the body and it has been postulated that their long-term, low dose exposure is increasingly linked to human health effects such as immune suppression, hormone disruption, diminished intelligence, reproductive abnormalities and cancer.
Sulphur Based pesticides and nitrogen- based pesticides are used extensively in farming and other agricultural practices across the country. These pesticides get deposited into the water stream and pollute waters.
Living near the agricultural fields treated with sulphur based pesticides may pose serious health risks.
The elemental sulphur, one of the most heavily used pesticides to control fungus and pests, is significantly associated to the development of asthma-related symptoms and reduced lung functions in children living in close proximity to the farms where pesticides are used.
Nitrogen Based fertilizers became increasingly popular in the 20th century. Farmers usually apply more than recommended amount to protect crops from pests. The excessive amount of fertilizers in the soil is transferred into the water stream of rivers and likes, and eventually reaches the ocean, causing environmental damage.
New research suggests will increase the polluting effects of nitrogen fertilizers, leading to destruction of more algae blooms in costal waters. Heavier rains, flooding, and drought caused by warmer temperatures will expand agricultural runoffs by as much as 20% by 2100.
In theory, the pesticide industry in India is regulated and farmers are ‘meant to be’ educated on usage. But in practice, the industry is a complex maze. The sale, dosage and usage are not very well regulated.
While the Central Insecticide Board and Registration Committee (CBIRC) registers pesticides for crops, FSSAI sets the maximum residue limit (MRL) of pesticides for the crops, it has been registered for. In reality, since farmers buy whatever the local shopkeeper recommends, he may end up spraying cauliflower with chemical X. The farmer sprays in whatever proportion the seller has told him which may be many times over the safety limit. All this pesticide laden food ends up on our tables.
There were reports of children dying after consuming litchis. Their deaths were due to consumption of fruits sprayed with a chemical endosulfan. This was three years after SC had already banned endosulfan.
Why do we still allow manufacture of chemicals like monocrotophos? We allow sale of 93 chemicals that have been banned or restricted in most of the developed world. What makes our policymakers think that we should continue to manufacture these chemicals and continue to poison the people who are spraying as well as who are eating the pesticide laden food?