|By Dinesh C. Sharma in New Delhi|
THE regulatory system for chemical pesticides in India is in a shambles. Government agencies are themselves blatantly violating the national law meant to regulate the use of pesticides.
State agriculture departments, agriculture universities, National Horticulture Board ( NHB), Tea Board, Spices Board and other government agencies are promoting the use of harmful pesticides among farmers, a new investigation by the Centre for Science and Environment ( CSE) has revealed.
Pesticide use in the country is regulated by the Central Insecticides Board and Registration Committee ( CIBRC), a wing under the agriculture ministry.
Every pesticide being used in the country has to be registered with CIBRC and the registration is pest and crop specific.
However, this system is being openly flouted by government organisations which are recommending use of pesticides for crops and pests not approved by CIBRC, according to a review of pesticides being used for 11 important crops in the country — wheat, paddy, apple, mango, potato, cauliflower, black pepper, cardamom, tea, sugarcane and cotton.
The pesticide recommendations made by state agriculture universities, agriculture departments and other boards for a crop do not match those pesticides registered with CIBRC, CSE has found. “ This is completely illegal.
A particular pesticide may be registered for a particular pest and particular crop, and its use in any other way is violation of law”, said Chandra Bhushan, who led the CSE study.
For instance, the Punjab Agricultural University has recommended 40 pesticides for wheat, of which 11 pesticides are not registered by CIBRC for wheat. The agriculture department in Mad- hya Pradesh recommends 29 pesticides for wheat, of which nine are not registered. The NHB recommends 19 pesticides for apple, of which 8 are not registered. Similarly, just one of the seven NHBrecommended pesticides for cauliflower is registered with CIBRC. Violations are seen across states and across all crops.
“ What we are seeing currently is indiscriminate recommendations by universities and agriculture departments. Indiscriminate use follows naturally”, said Kavitha Kuruganti of Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture. “ As it is, we have approved a large number of chemicals, including known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors and pesticides banned elsewhere. There is no assessment being done for synergistic effects of cocktails of chemicals being used”. The CIBRC registers pesticides while the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India ( FSSAI) sets the Maximum Residue Limits ( MRLs) of pesticides for crops it has been registered for. Of 234 registered pesticides, FSSAI has not set MRLs for 59 pesticides. A review of MRL status of 20 commonly used and recommended pesticides showed that these limits for 18 pesticides are not complete.
MRLs have been set for broad groups like fruits, vegetables and food grains rather than specific crops while the pesticides have been registered for specific crops.
“ A crop is not supposed to contain residues of a pesticide, which is not registered for it. Otherwise, it will be considered adulterated. If pesticides recommended by state and other bodies are different from the CIBRC registration then the crops produced will be considered adulterated despite farmers following recommendations,” Bhushan said.
A TOXIC TALE
Multiple agencies involved in regulation, no coordination among them
States are recommending to farmers pesticides not registered with the central government
Unapproved pesticides being used for wheat, paddy, mango, apple, potato, cauliflower, black pepper, cardamom, tea, sugarcane and cotton in several states
Maximum Residue Limits ( MRLs) for 59 pesticides have not been set and those which have been set do not cover all the crops for which a pesticide has been registered
The registration process does not have sound provisions to ensure setting of MRLs before registration
No steps taken to ensure compliance with the acceptable daily intake of pesticides and monitoring of pesticide residues regularly