Pesticide usage: Dealers call the shots

April 4, 2013 0 Comments

Jayashree Nandi, TNN

Mar 30, 2013,
NEW DELHI: Innumerable guidelines, rules and safety standards may be in place to regulate pesticide usage but guess who call the shots? Pesticide dealers. They decide which pesticide and in what quantities are to be used by farmers.

A recent Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) study found that government’s extension services to monitor pesticide usage have failed completely in reaching out to farmers. Farmers say they have no option but to depend on pesticide dealers for advice. Recommendations from agriculture universities don’t reach them. They end up using any pesticide indiscriminately no matter how toxic.

The CSE study released last month also found that of the 234 pesticides registered in the country, maximum residue limits (MRLs) have not been fixed for as many as 59 pesticides.

MRL is the maximum concentration of pesticide residues on a crop that can be allowed when it is being sold. “Farmers don’t follow any advice or recommendation on pesticide usage. The extension services have not been able to reach the farming community. The pesticide dealer is the ‘expert’ and the ‘scientist’ for a farmer. This is leading to unnecessary usage of chemical pesticides in many parts of India,” says Yudhvir Singh, member of the international coordination committee – South Asia of La via Campesina and general secretary of Bharat Kisan Union (BKU).

“Farmers also use many banned pesticides like Endosulfan because they are not aware that those have been banned for their toxicity,” he said. Avimuktesh Bharadwaj, the author of the CSE study, said pesticides like monocrotophos and methyl parathion are under the ‘restricted use’ category, but are widely available in the market. “It’s ironical that these pesticides are acutely toxic but are available. Farmers don’t know that there are restrictions on them,” he said. Surender Kumar Rajput’s case is unique. A pesticide dealer based in Ferozepur in Punjab, Rajput is also an organic famer.

“I use only bio-pesticides for my farm. But usually other farmers follow whatever pesticide dealers tell them. The agri-university recommendations are very old so no one follows them. The amount of pesticide they use for each crop is randomly decided by the farmer. One of the most neglected aspects of random pesticide usage is deteriorating soil health,” he said.

Umendra Dutt of Kheti Virasat Mission adds: “When agri-universities don’t follow any regulations how can you expect farmers to be aware?” Another loophole that the CSE investigation has revealed is that recommendations of many agriculture universities and state agriculture boards don’t comply with the Central Insecticides Board and Registration Committee (CIBRC)’s rules.

Pesticide use in India is regulated by the CIBRC. Every pesticide being used has to be registered with CIBRC clearly outlining which crop it is meant for. But the study found that many government bodies where recommending pesticides not approved by CIBRC. Farmers also revealed that dealers are paid a ‘commission’ by the pesticide company to popularize a pesticide. “They try to manipulate farmers all the time,” Singh said.

CSE’s review of 11 crops – wheat, paddy, apple, mango, potato, cauliflower, black pepper, cardamom, tea, sugarcane and cotton – shows that the pesticide recommendations made by state agriculture universities, agriculture departments and other boards for a crop do not adhere to the pesticides that the CIBRC has registered for those crops. Recommendations made by the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) formed in 2003 to educate farmers about bio-pesticides have not been followed. Farmers use pesticides indiscriminately, even the ones slotted under ‘restricted use’ category.