|By Dinesh C. Sharma in New Delhi|
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
Compiled by Rosemary Mason MB ChB FRCA on behalf of a global network of beekeepers, toxicologists,
scientists, farmers and environmentalists. Within it, Georgina Downs, founder of the UK Pesticides
Campaign, has given a summary her evidence
Three neonicotinoids, the world’s most widely used insecticides would be forbidden across the continent for two years
Insecticides linked to serious harm in bees could be banned from use on flowering crops in Europe as early as July, under proposals set out by the European commission on Thursday, branded “hugely significant” by environmentalists. The move marks remarkably rapid action after evidence has mounted in recent months that the pesticides are contributing to the decline in insects that pollinate a third of all food.
Three neonicotinoids, the world’s most widely used insecticides, which earn billions of pounds a year for their manufacturers, would be forbidden from use on corn, oil seed rape, sunflowers and other crops across the continent for two years.
It was time for “swift and decisive action”, said Tonio Borg, commissioner for health and consumer policy, who added that the proposals were “ambitious but proportionate”.
The proposals will enter EU law on 25 February if a majority of Europe’s member states vote in favour. France and the Netherlands are supportive but the UK and Germany are reported to be reluctant.
“It’s important that we take action based upon scientific evidence rather than making knee-jerk decisions that could have significant knock-on impacts,” said the environment secretary, Owen Paterson. “That’s why we are carrying out our own detailed field research to ensure we can make a decision about neonicotinoids based on the most up-to-date and complete evidence available.”
Luis Morago, at campaign group Avaaz which took an anti-neonicotinoid petition of 2.2m signatures to Brussels, said: “This is the first time that the EU has recognised that the demise of bees has a perpetrator: pesticides. The suspension could mark a tipping point in the battle to stop the chemical armageddon for bees, but it does not go far enough. Over 2.2 million people want the European commission to face-down spurious German and British opposition and push for comprehensive ban of neonicotinoid pesticides.”
Keith Taylor, Green party MEP for South East England MEP, said: “For too long the threat to bees from neonicotinoids has been dismissed, minimised or ignored. It is, therefore, good to see the European commission finally waking up. Bees have enormous economic value as pollinators and are vital to farmers. Let us hope that we’re not too late in halting the dramatic decline in their population.”
Scientific evidence has mounted rapidly since March 2012, when two high-profile studies found that bees consuming neonicotinoids suffered an 85% loss in the number of queens their nests produced and showed a doubling in “disappeared” bees who got lost while foraging. Neonicotinoids have been fiercely defended by their manufacturers, who claim there is no proof of harm in field conditions and by farming lobbies who say crop yields could fall without pesticide protection. Some neonicotinoid uses have been banned in the past in France, Italy, Slovenia and Germany, but no action has yet been taken in the UK. A parliamentary committee is currently investigating the impact of neonicotinoids on all pollinators and found evidence raising “serious questions about the integrity, transparency and effectiveness of EU pesticides regulation“.
On 16 January, the European Food Safety Authority, official advisers to the EC, labelled the three neonicotinoids an unacceptable danger to bees feeding on flowering crops and this prompted the proposal produced on Thursday. If approved by experts from member states on 25 February, it would suspend the use imidacloprid and clothianidin, made by Bayer, and thiamethoxam, made by Syngenta, on crops that attract bees. Winter cereals would be excluded, because bees are not active at that time, and the suspension would be reviewed after two years. The European commission is also considering banning gardeners from using these neonicotinoids, although B&Q, Homebase and Wickes have already withdrawn such products from their garden centres in the UK.
“This hugely significant proposal promises a first, important step on the road to turning around the decline on our bees,” said Friends of the Earth’s head of campaigns Andrew Pendleton. “The UK government must throw its weight behind it. The evidence linking neonicotinoid chemicals to declining bee populations is growing. It is time to put farmers and nature before pesticide company profits. Ministers must act quickly to support safe and effective alternatives to chemical insecticides.”
large promises of food security and alleviation of poverty, mainly because these approaches contribute to a feedback cycle that concentrates resources, knowledge, and influence as witnessed in the seed and agrichemicals sector (Adi, 2006; De Schutter, 2009; Fernandez-Cornejo, 2006; Howard, 2009).Through this power, top‑down providers can artificially homogenise both the conception of the problem to be solved and the solutions — such as GM crop plants — they propose. All too often questioning the rationality of the approach gets lost in the background of the unquestioning discussion over the use of the approach (Pavone, 2011 and see discussion in Boxes 19.1 an 19.2). Perhaps greater reflection and social deliberation into why and for whom agricultural innovations should be produced is needed if we are truly going to follow more sustainable pathways in the production of food and fibre. In the path ahead, societies In the path ahead, societies will have to make more conscientious choices of how to define and shape innovation to produce solutions that are appropriate for meeting global challenges related to agriculture. Bottom-up approaches are proving capable of getting sustainable, participatory and locally adapted solutions into the hands of those that need them most (Altieri, 2011a; Emerging issues | Hungry for innovation: pathways from GM crops to agroecology 510 Late lessons from early warnings: science, precaution, innovation De Schutter, 2011), but are incapable of flourishing where invention is limited to what can be easily described by prevailing IP instruments. Change the directions, distribution and diversity of innovation, and you change the world.”
A Center for Biological Diversity Report
By Brian Litmans and Jeff Miller
Photo Editor, Design: Meredith Hartwell
RESIDUAL PESTICIDES (MONOCROTOPHOS) BRING DOWN COCONUT YIELD IN TUMKUR:
TAMING HTE PESTICIDES DRAGON – ON AN INNOVATION RELATED TO PESTICIDE RESIDUE TESTING:
CROP PROTECTION SECTOR LOOKS FOR COVER, A BUSINESSLINE STORY ON HOW THE INDUSTRY’S SALES ARE DIPPING THIS SEASON, DUE TO LACK OF RAINS:
25 SITES FAIL GROUNDWATER TEST, IN DELHI, INCLUDING ON CHEMICAL ANALYSES FOR PESTICIDE RESIDUES:
CM MOOTS JOINT EFFORTS FOR EFFECTIVE REHABILITATION OF ENDOSULFAN VICTIMS IN KERALA:
THE TRAGEDY CONTINUES, IN BHOPAL: AN OPINION PIECE ON JUDGE KEENAN’S RULING IN AN AMERICAN COURT ABSOLVING UCC OF ITS LIABILITIES IN BHOPAL:
BHOPAL VERDICT IS AGAINST PUBLIC HEALTH AND DEMOCRACY: ANOTHER OPED PIECE:
“If you want to live go to Bikaner,” neighbours told Raj Rani, who suffers from breast cancer
It all started with a knot in her left breast. Within no time it grew to the size of a tennis ball. In pain, 40-year-old Raj Rani went to the doctor in her village in Punjab’s Ferozepur district. Finding no relief, she started doing the rounds of government hospitals in Ludhiana and Faridkot and then a private hospital in Bathinda. Shelling out money at hospitals was not easy with a non-earning husband and sons bringing home little as small-time mechanics. By this time, a year had lapsed and Raj Rani’s health started deteriorating; she had stopped eating and had no hope of surviving.
Mukhtair Kaur of Jhajjar village in Bathinda thinks she got breast cancer because she beat her chest too much when her brother died. She has been a patient for the past 15 years“If you want to live, go to the hospital in Bikaner,” told her neighbours. With no option, she undertook a 10-hour road journey to Bathinda to board the train to Bikaner in Rajasthan, another nine-hour journey.
Doctors at Acharya Tulsi Regional Cancer Treatment and Research Center (RCC) removed her left breast and gave her chemotherapy. Three years later, Raj Rani sits patiently at the door of the hospital’s cancer out patient department for further check-ups.
“Correct treatment has kept me alive,” she says. Every district in Punjab is brimming with cancer cases. The Malwa region of Punjab, a cotton-growing belt, has the highest incidence of cancer in India, admitted Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deputy chairperson of the Planning Commission while releasing the plan for states for 2012-13.
Malwa region comprises the southern districts of Bathinda, Faridkot, Moga, Mukhtasar, Ferozepur, Sangrur and Mansa.
72-year-old Jaswant Kaur found she has breast cancer at a screening camp in Faridkot. Treatment will cost Rs 2 lakh, doctors told her. She has resorted to taking unani medicineAbsence of reasonable and quality treatment in Punjab forces hundreds of cancer patients to travel from faraway places to make a beeline for RCC, one of the 18 regional cancer research centres in the country.
In 2005, Down To Earth had reported the inadequate and expensive treatment for cancer in Punjab (‘Cancer train’, June 1-15) when Delhi non-profit Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) tested the blood samples of people living in Bathinda and found unacceptable levels of pesticides in them (‘Residue of a revolution’, Down To Earth, June 1-15, 2005).
Seven years later, government has done little to make treatment for cancer available in the state. Patients like Raj Rani still rely on the distant Bikaner hospital.
Patients wait outside the doctor’s room at Acharya Tulsi Regional Cancer CentreOptions too few
Bathinda, the hub of cancer in Punjab, has no facility to treat the disease in its civil hospital.
Patients have to choose between small private hospitals and the super-specialty Max Hospital. The hospital was built in November 2011 on government land through public-private partnership after government understood the cancer threat in the state.
But the hospital is run privately. It has the latest technology and equipment and the treatment bill can shoot up to lakhs of rupees.
“One chemotherapy session costs Rs 1.25 lakh. Treatment for pancreatic cancer can cost Rs 3.5 lakh,” says Manjinder Sidhu, oncologist at the hospital.
Both Karnail Singh and his wife Balbir Kaur of Jhajjar village in Bathinda are cancer patientsPatients in the state decide against the Centrally-run Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh because it takes months to get admission there.
Eighty-year-old Karnail Singh and his wife Balbir Kaur, both cancer patients from Jhajjar village in Bathinda, opted for RCC. “Doctors in Bathinda robbed me,” says Singh. They kept getting the same tests done.
Each time it cost Rs 1,400. A farmer, he took loans for the initial treatment of his wife’s uterus cancer and his stomach cancer. Treatment at RCC added extra years to their lives. Balbir’s surgery and Karnail’s radiotherapy were done for free.
Medicines were also free. Investigations are cheap—Rs 50 each for biopsy and x-ray and CT scan. MRI costs about Rs 1,200.
Pappu Mamman, 50, awaits his chemotherapy session. He suffers from cancer in the oesophagusThe state government counters people’s allegations of poor facilities with a list—a brachytherapy machine at Government Medical College and Hospital in Patiala, a radiotherapy machine at Sri Guru Gobind Singh Medical College in Faridkot and a cobalt source machine at Sri Guru Ram Das Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Centre in Amritsar. But these are not enough.
The number of new cases from Punjab remains high, says Ajay Sharma, director, RCC. There has been no decline in the number of follow-up cases either.
In 2009, the hospital received 6,138 new cases and 45,357 follow-ups. In 2010, there were 6,295 new cases and 45,189 follow-ups. In 2011, new cases reduced to 5,787 and follow-up cases to 43,189.
However, the percentage of new cases that come from Punjab remains the same—60 to 70 per cent, says Sharma.
Government’s baby steps
To generate data on the magnitude and pattern of the disease, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) set up the national cancer registry programme in 1981 with centres at Mumbai, Bengaluru and Chennai.
Mamman being taken for chemotherapyBut the programme failed to yield results. After high incidence of cancer cases were reported in Punjab, in 2010 the Centre asked the state to maintain a separate registry.
It was only in November 2011 that Punjab started maintaining such data. The drawback in the programme was that cancer cases that came only in government hospitals were to be reported.
On October 18, 2011, the state government made it mandatory for all public and private hospitals, pathological, clinical and radiological labs and medical institutions imparting medical education and providing diagnostic or treatment facility for cancer, to report all cancer cases to the pathology department of Government Medical College in Patiala. The college sends the data to ICMR for compilation.
According to the new registry, between December 2011 and June 2012, Patiala recorded 1,131 cases—highest in the state—and 74 deaths. The highest mortality was in Bathinda with 99 patients dying within six months.
But the numbers give just a fraction of the disease burden in the state. “In Patiala the number of cases is highest because the registry is located here,” says Manjit Singh Bal, professor and head of pathology department in Government Medical College, Patiala.
He also heads the registry programme. Doctors at faraway places do not bother to send data, he says. “They find filling forms a waste of time,” he adds.
Taking suo motu cognizance of media reports on rising cancer cases, in August 2011 the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) asked the Punjab government what steps it had taken to check the problem.
The state government submitted two reports—on September 20, 2011, and February 27, 2012—saying it had banned 20 pesticides in Malwa and withdrawn their registrations. But it did not mention the names of the pesticides or the crops on which they were used. Pesticide suppliers do not even know of the ban.
“There is no government ban on pesticides,” says Chaitar Singh, a pesticide supplier in Chaina Bazar, Faridkot.
In the second report to NHRC, principal secretary, health and family welfare department, accepted that use of pesticides “was on the higher side in Malwa region on account of growing of cotton crop. But in the last four to five years, its use has reduced because farmers have switched to Bt cotton which requires 20 per cent of the pesticides used for earlier cotton varieties”.
State government data contradicts the statement. Reduction in pesticide use has been negligible in the past few years—from 5,975 tonnes in 2006-07, it came down to 5,690 tonnes in 2010-11.
Jarnail Singh, a farmer since 1970 in Bathinda, says between 1992 and 2004 pesticides were extensively used on cotton crop. When Bt cotton was introduced in 2004, there were no pests in the first two years. But new pests started attacking soon and farmers resorted to extensive pesticide spraying.
Offering lip service
In July 2011, the Punjab government entitled all cancer patients to get Rs 1.5 lakh for treatment from the chief minister’s fund. Till May 2012, it has spent over Rs 30 crore to treat 3,329 patients.
Treatment at the super-specialty Max Hospital in Bathinda is too expensiveBut the scheme is of little help because the amount goes directly to the hospital where the patients get treated. “We have to purchase all the medicines,” says Amarjit Singh. He buys injections for his younger brother who has stomach cancer. “One injection costs Rs 25,000,” he says as he waits at the Bathinda platform to take the train to Bikaner.
Max Hospital has treated 90 patients for cancer ever since the hospital started. Of these, 40 applied for money under the scheme, but only 24 could avail the privilege. Four of them passed away during treatment.
Doctors at Punjab seem to have left treatment to godsPromises made by political parties carry little meaning. In January, the state government announced it would set up a cancer hospital in Bathinda.
The four main parties in the state—Congress, Shiromani Akali Dal, Bharatiya Janata Party and People’s Party of Punjab—for the first time included the issue of high cancer incidence in their election manifestoes.
But residents are not convinced. “These were hollow promises just to win votes,” says Amarjit Singh.
“Waiting for people to get the disease and then offering them treatment is not the answer,” says G P I Singh, dean of Adesh Institute of Medical Sciences and Research in Bathinda and convener of Environmental Health Action Group, a non-profit. “We need to map the entire state to find out why the fatal disease is occurring,” he says.
Hindi version telecasted on 24th June.
Jayashree Nandi, TNN | Jun 25, 2012, 06.56PM IST
Interestingly, pesticide residues in food was also the theme of actor, Amir Khan’s latest television chat show aired on Sunday. ASHA members who participated in the show presented data to substantiate their claims about how pesticide residues can lead to chronic health problems like cancer.
“Scientific studies have shown that pesticide exposure is correlated with serious health risks including cancers, endocrine disruption causing reproductive health disorders, organ damage, and immune system impairment. There is also much that is wrong with the regulatory system and approach related to chemical pesticides in the country. There are fundamental ways in which the issue has to be addressed, by changes in our technological approach to agriculture as well as in our regulatory approach. We hope to bring about a change collectively, through citizens’ involvement”", explained G V Ramanjaneyulu of Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Hyderabad.
He added that studies have indicated that in India, vegetables, fruits, staple cereals and pulses, meat, milk, eggs and poultry, drinking water and processed foods/beverages are contaminated with poisonous residues to various degrees. “”Delhi High Court’s own testing showed impermissible pesticides in the samples that were picked up. Our export consignments being rejected for their toxic residues are another indicator of the state of affairs,” Ramanjaneyulu said.
The campaign will have a public outreach effort mainly through online mobilization and cyber-action through emails. In Delhi, an organic food mela is being organized on June 30 and July 1 as part of the campaign; in Bangalore, a safe food mela, combined with urban gardening orientation is scheduled for the next weekend. There will be a public march against pesticides at Bathinda, in Punjab’s Malwa belt June 27.
ASHA demanded that the government make appropriate investments be made to promote ecological farming, to ensure access to organic food by establishing safe food outlets and using public distribution system (PDS), providing pesticide-free food under various food schemes to pregnant and lactating women and children and banning those pesticides that have been banned in other countries and known to have chronic health impacts.
The team tested the water samples for organochloride pesticides (OCP) that breakdown very slowly in the environment. Many of these pesticides disrupt the endocrine system and mimic the body’s natural hormones causing havoc in the hormonal system. The study says these pesticides can lead to serious longterm health hazards.
Samples were collected from 21 borewells and tested for 17 varieties of OCPs. Three samples tested positive for all 17 targeted OCPs. The most frequently occurring pesticide residues were of aldrin, a byproduct of insecticide lidane, endosulfan and even DDT. “Yes, we found residues of even pesticides that are banned. It’s worrying because these pesticides remain in the environment for very long,” said professor Atul K Mittal, who headed the study. The most commonly occurring pesticide in the water samples was aldrin.
Though the concentrations of pesticides were not higher than the standards set by Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), in many cases the samples had higher concentration of pesticides than the WHO and EU standards. “In case of organochloride pesticides, the concentration is not so much a worry as the fact that we are continuously exposed to them. They stay in our environment for a long time. Such exposure can be directly linked to higher incidence of cancer, reduced fertility, thyroid disruption and other health problems,” said Pravin Mutiyar Suthar, one of the researchers in the study.
The same team also conducted a larger study of the entire Ganga basin covering Uttarakhand, UP and Bihar. The results showed that different types of OCPs predominate in different regions depending upon land-use pattern. HCH, a byproduct of insecticide lidane, was detected mostly in the mountainous stretch (Uttarakhand), the water in UP contained more of endosulfan residues and the Bihar region contained more of the aldrin group of pesticides.
Both the Palla-Burari water quality study and Ganga basin study were published in the journal Drinking Water Engineering and Science this year. The team is continuing to test samples from Yamuna and surrounding areas.