Thursday, May 26, 2011


Insecticides and pesticides, thousands in number evoke bitter feeling amongst many consumer activists who feel that these are slow poisons affecting adversely the health of billions of people on this planet. The gruesome tragedy of Bhopal is still fresh in the memory of many people in India and there are hundreds of such cases where pesticides have caused heavy damages to the agriculturists, consumers and people exposed to these deadly chemicals. Of course mankind is pulled between the necessity to increase food production and freedom from health hazards and use of chemicals as crop protectants is supposed to be based on an analysis of cost, benefits and risks. Unfortunately when most of the pesticides were approved for use, the science of nutrition, health, analytical techniques etc were some what primitive and it is only to day that these aspects are better understood. The birth of organic food industry can be attributed to the inherent dangers of using pesticides and if this industry is growing at a phenomenal pace thanks are due to the indiscriminate use of pesticides and the dangers pose by them.

"Environmentalists are once again taking aim at our nation's food supply in the debate over pesticide use.

And if those groups are victorious, up to 80 percent of Washington's farmland could be affected. The Center for Biological Diversity sued the Environmental Protection Agency in January, alleging that the EPA failed to demonstrate due diligence in consulting with the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service about new pesticides. Farmers are concerned, to say the least. The lawsuit could jettison the use of 380 pesticides used in 49 states, said Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. That's a problem. Pesticides are used to, well, control pests of all manner -- bugs, weeds, fungus and more. The use of pesticides increases crop production, decreases back-breaking weed-pulling by workers and creates more appealing produce free of scars left by hungry bugs. Without pesticides, food would cost more, and there would be less of it. Millions of workers would be needed to pull weeds that threaten to overtake crops. Insects could wipe out entire crops for the season. No one wants to trade the health of our rivers and lakes for the health of our agricultural industry, but it's possible to marry responsible stewardship with modern farming practices".

Nearer home the fierce fight between the Central Government at Delhi and some State Governments for banning Endosulfan, one of the cheapest pesticides available, is assuming international dimension with the recent Stockholm Convention recommending its ban once for all. The Government of Kerala which is in the forefront in campaigning for the ban of this chemical has graphic accounts of population in one of the districts with predominant cashew plantations suffering from a multitude of health problems, some of them proving to be fatal. While banning use of chemical pesticides is fraught with tremendous future implications vis-a-vis global food security, mankind has no other alternative but to look for alternative options as being done by the fossil fuel industry facing future energy insecurity.


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