Pesticide Lobby Launches Offensive On Environmental Groups
By Umendra Dutt
09 March, 2006
The Pesticide Industry has now gone on an all out war cry, not against the Pests, as is their mandate but against public science, concerns of health and the ensuing public opinion that is growing against their products. In addition, at the receiving end of this tirade is a growing group of civil groups, public health experts and even farmers, whom the pesticide industry has seemingly been serving for more than half a century!
Please be aware all environmental activists, NGOs and Doctors that your concern for the growing debt marauded villages, or for the growing thousands of widows whose farmer husbands drank the very pesticides to save themselves from debt ( look at the irony – the same pesticides that "saved" them from pests in their crops), or for the millions of consumers, exposed to pesticides at poisoning levels ( for some pesticides even the smallest detectable levels are known to be poisonous ) causing ill-health of diverse and scattered nature, your concerns could after all be "anti-national" & "anti- farmer".
The Agrochemical Promotion Group has this new theory to put forward. And we have already heard something quite similar some where before. "Either you are with us (in this offensive against pests, which is incidentally making some of us multi-millionaires, while a few thousand farmers or a few million acres of farm lands could be poisoned) or you are against the country" –seems to be their loud thinking. Moreover, the Crop Care Federation of India, another of the pesticide vending cartels, believes that any talk on the ill effects of pesticides is going to drag India behind. They have it seems done some "Research" on this aspect!
Moreover, in their desperate, yet systematic build up of their poisoning industrial empires, they seem to have adopted some of the most emotive of claims. They are 'nationalists', 'progressive', and 'forward looking', 'farmer friendly In addition, according to the CCFI formerly known as Pesticides Association of India, the environmentalists are indulged in "an organized attempt to mislead people. As a result India might lapse into wheat importing country." Ironically, this year, India did import wheat inspite of surplus production and stock. May we ask the pesticide industry why even after fifty years of your crop protection the farmers themselves are not able to afford to buy what they produce? Why millions of farmers, a known 40% of them atleast are going to their beds with a hungry stomach, inspite of their production, and your crop protection. The reasons are there to see, if you have the heart to see them. While production has increased, and productivity doubled or tripled, the farmer has to spent more and more for the same, get more and more loans, for all the costly inputs you have formulated and developed for him, and in the end made him eat his own dust, while the agro-chemical cartels and promotion groups languish in lavish bunglows counting the profits, and devising methods to protect their pesticide products.
Ironically, the Food and Agriculture Organisation, whose decades were spent trying to convince and sell to countries the need for modern agriculture has off late seen better sense and is promoting IPM, Alternate methods of crop management and advocates minimal use of chemical pesticides. And infact, the Agro-Chemical promotion Group, itself by name is a violation of the "International Code of Conduct on the Use and Distribution of Pesticides" of the FAO, signed by all countries and stake groups including industries and environmental as well as public health organisations. We advice that the APG change their name, as they should not, as per the code, be seen as an organisation "Promoting" the agro-chemicals.
The irony is that even Chemical companies cannot openly promote their chemicals as a "safe", "non-toxic", "non-poisonous" etc, and they are bound to the code and have to advocate judicious use of these pesticides, as per need and only as per many state, national and international conditions, most of which are for protecting public health and the environment from damages.
Of late the Pesticide industry lobby has been levelling some hilarious allegations against environmental groups and anybody who finds evidence of their chemicals contaminating blood or food or the environment. In a statement to media on 14 February 2006 at Ahmedabad, one of the top officers of the Crop Care Federation of India stated that they had already initiated action against Maneka Gandhi and Kheti Virasat Mission for making false claims about ill effects of pesticides on human beings and environment. Now one would like to now what kind of actions these are ? And who are they to take actions against civil society who have been raising the concerns of the farmers and consumers of this country.
It seems that agro-chemical groups and pesticide industry is feeling threatened by environmental groups when they say, "Baseless allegations of environmentalists has seriously challenged interests of Rs.6000 crore pesticide industry in the country …. As a result we have decided to challenge all such false campaigns." Now, we have one of these groups taking on this challenge that we as civil society has posed to them. We were waiting for this. We have evidence that people exposed to pesticides are being poisoned – farmers and consumers, women and children and we have evidence – even official government statements and data that many of these pesticides are extremely hazardous and many even be carcinogenic and mutagenic. Now we want the APG and CCFI to prove that our concerns, backed by studies are "false campaigns".
There are number of reports that came out in recent past, which put pesticide industry in deep worry. After CSE's report on pesticides in colas, followed by their expose of pesticides in blood of Punjabis, then came the Greenpeace India's report on impact of pesticides on growth of children that has sharpened the debate. The PGIMER report on abnormally high incidents of cancer in Malwa region pointed the finger clearly on pesticides for the dance of death. The CSE's report on traces of pesticides in human blood in Bathinda district initiated the debate on health and environmental impacts of pesticides in media and larger civil society. A general feeling has grown that pesticides are creating havoc for man and nature. Mean while the campaign for No pesticide use by various organic farming groups has gained significant momentum and public support. Many of the modern farmers who had fallen to the pesticide trap in the last 5 decades, have now realised and come out of the trap and have even joined the organic movement.
In a letter to the author of this article, who is also the Executive Director of Kheti Virasat Mission, the Convener of Agro-Chemical Promotion Group (APG) Ninad Gupte states that "You are levelling many wild accusations and criticizing the use of pesticides and have made several statements which are patently false, derogatory and misplaced". The letter further accused that, our perceptions are wrong; they have no basis of substance and reflect an unfortunate ignorance about the use and purpose of pesticides in agriculture. According to APG, the KVM is not only confusing the farmers, but are also spreading canards, which are not acceptable to the pesticide industry.
Mr.Ninad Gupte has even gone to the extreme extent by saying "You are yourself an educated person, and surely would not like to indulge in anti national and anti farmer policies of damaging Indian agriculture". Further, he "strongly advised to either submit evidence that pesticides indeed do adversely affect health/cause cancer at the levels they are found in traces or withdraw your damaging anti-pesticide campaign"
We request Ninad Gupte to read Para 3.9 of the International Code of Conduct on pesticide Use and Distribution. It reads " Governments, with the support of relevant international and regional organizations, should encourage and promote research on, and the development of, alternatives posing fewer risks: biological control agents and techniques, non-chemical pesticides and pesticides that are, as far as possible or desirable, target-specific, that degrade into innocuous constituent parts or metabolites after use and are of low risk to humans and the environment. " So your pesticides are a recognised risk – globally and nationally. And we are all bound to see that we should reduce the risk. And when as a civil society we see that this is an unnecessary risk and there is availability of alternatives and better, cheaper and sustainable methods, how does it become wrong to ask for the stopping of the use of chemical pesticides. And according to your new found hilarious argument, would you say that Government of India is "anti-national" when they advocate IPM or safer alternatives instead of chemical pesticides !
The frustration of the industry is understandable, but their actions are making a joke of their industry. In his talk with media persons over phone Mr Salil Singhal, Chairman of the "illegally" formed ( as per the FAO Code) APG again shows his anger on KVM, Greenpeace and others for their safe food campaign. According to him, an activity to 'mislead' farmers on pesticide use is as equal as anti-national activities. He even dared to show his intentions and declared that he would teach KVM and others a lesson.
Following this, the Crop Care Federation of India had sent a legal notice to KVM asking for unconditional apology in writing for commenting on health impacts of pesticides. The CCFI notice claimed that, they have invested huge amount of capital and generated employment and have also earned valuable foreign exchange for nation. We feel that all these claims will look tall and impressive, if it is not read with the ecological and health damage caused in the process. The notice further says that the CCFI members, (read pesticide manufacturers), "supplies quality pesticides to the farmers in various parts of the country and world over without which not only crop yield would have been reduced but also crops would have been destroyed." More than 100 questions have been asked about pesticides in the Lok Sabha just about pesticides, spurious, banned, illegal and about their impacts. And most of the time, the Government categorically declares that they are recommending IPM and also minimising use of pesticides" Here are a sample of a few such answers
"The Government of India is implementing a Technology Mission on Cotton (TMC) for increasing the production and productivity of the cotton crop. The TMC includes grants-in-aid for establishment of biological control laboratories for minimizing the use of chemical pesticides and training of farmers in Integrated Pest Management. Insecticides Resistance Management strategies are also being promoted under this programme to complement the efforts of Integrated Pest Management approach"
"The Government has already conceded to a question in the parliament on pesticide residues that "In general, pesticide residues are not desirable in agricultural produce." However, as cured leaf of tobacco is not a food item, maximum tolerance limit of pesticide residues for the same has not been prescribed under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Rules 1955."
"… Government is advocating `Integrated Nutrient Management` (INM) by promoting soil test based balanced and judicious use of chemical fertilizers in conjunction with organic manures, bio-fertilizers, etc. and also Integrated Pest Management (IPM) providing mechanical, biological control methods and need based use of pesticides, Government is also advocating organic farming by using organic inputs for plant nutrients."
"The Registration Committee, constituted under the Act, registers pesticides for use in the country only after satisfying itself regarding their efficacy and safety to human beings and animals. In keeping with the above objectives, it has been decided not to register Class Ia or Ib pesticides without sufficient justification, even though Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Code of Conduct does not debar the use of Class Ia, Class Ib and Class II pesticides."
CAN THE APG AND CCFI TELL US WHY THIS PRECAUTION ? WHY THE REGISTRATION ? WHY YOU ARE GOING THROUGH ALL THE TROUBLE OF TESTING AND TOXICITY STUDIES ETC ?
BECAUSE BASICALLY YOUR PRODUCTS ARE POSIONS AND THEY NEED TO BE REGULATED.
And now, we have a spate of studies that show that this regulations has miserably failed in the country. The Endosulfan Spray issue in Kasaragod, Kerala has shown that all precautionary and safety systems are a eye-wash in the country. And following the medical evidence produced by a detailed epidemiological study by the NIOH, the jittery industry and the government arm-twisted the system to keep the pesticide in the market. The results are funny. "Endosulfan is banned in Kerala, but can be used in all the other states". The message is clear – If you want it banned in Punjab, then prove that Punjabis can also be poisoned or may die out of endosulfan !! Never in history has agriculture scientists, officials and the industry ever distorted science to this blatant extent. Shamefully blatant.
And the same history of violation, the same drama is being enacted in Punjab – the hot bed of farming crisis. While the APG and CCFI is challenging the people, let us have a look at the ground in Punjab.
The entire eco-system of Punjab , that sustained farming and was the food basket of India has literally collapsed. There are several health impacts quite visible in Punjab . The economy of Punjab is in great stress due to intensive chemicalization of agriculture, and its unchecked modernisation. The pesticide companies have earned corers of rupees from Punjab alone, while the farmers are committing suicides. Even the government has conceded the suicide data - 2116 numbers. Do the APG and CCFI have any idea how these widows are surviving now? How their children are being educated ?
And the irony is that most of the victims are farmers, not business men, not a single pesticide dealer, stockiest and manufacturer suffer from chemicalized agriculture. Farmers lost their farms , their houses are mortgaged but pesticide industry has grown up. Their profits are rising high.
Now studies show that pesticide have nothing to do with yield, productivity and food security. This myth has been broken, and any such claims are only to satisfy their egoes – after all they need a public ( national ) reason to make profits, especially when the product itself is just poisons. And in fact the use of pesticides have only increased the number of pests ( look at the state of pesticide sprayed cotton fields).
At the same time there are several success models of NO PESTICIDE FARMING in India and abroad. And many of such experiments are in Cotton and Grains, the two most pesticide sprayed crops in the country.
It is also well-established that cancers and pesticides are linked and that certain types of cancer are related to pesticides more than other factors. The higher incidence of pesticides-related cancers [within various types of cancers] in the Malwa belt cannot be denied either.
Punjab has always been a state that showed the way forward for the country in the field of agriculture. Our people are supposed to be the healthiest in the nation. But today Punjab is a mauled figure. Its people are getting less and less healthy. Its farmers are getting more and more depressed, indebted and disillusioned with agriculture. Our pride – our farms and our strength (bodily and economically) has been compromised and we have become weak. Look at our off springs – and look at how unhealthy they are ? Our farming – natural and organic as it used to be half a century back - is now fully chemical and pesticide (poison)driven. More than 50% of our cost of cultivation in most crops goes for chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Today Punjab , just one small state in terms of its agricultural area 1.5 % of total geographical area and near 2.5% of total agriculture land of India , consumes more than 18 % of the total pesticides used in the country. We believe this is a shame and speaks very badly of our agriculture research and extension work as well as our farming community – that so much of poisons should be used to produce our food and crops. It's a shame especially in a new brave world where more and more countries, farmers and consumers are moving the organic way and becoming conscious of the safety of the food they eat and the water they drink. Punjab still continues to consume so much of poisons in the name of an old and now derelict method of crop protection – by using pesticides.
Though banned about two decades in many countries and banned and restricted in India too later, many of the Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are found in blood samples even today, all over the world. According to PGIMER study, the blood samples that they studied contain the residues of POPs like Heptachlor, DDT, Aldrin and other extremely toxic pesticides like Chlorpyriphos, Ethion and Endosulfan. The Centre for Science & Environment (CSE) also found six to thirteen pesticides in virtually all blood samples. Some of them were POPs as: HCH, Aldrin and DDT. They also found Monocrotophos, Endosulfan, Phosphamidon, Chlorpyrifos and Malathion, all of which are used in high volumes in Punjab .
POPs are banned in a majority of countries in the world. They are to be eliminated from use all over the world through the Stockholm Convention (2002), of which India is also a signatory. POPs are known Endocrine disrupters and the main reason behind neurotoxicity, immunotoxicity, reproductive disorders, testicular cancer, and congenital malformations. Even motherhood is challenged by POPs through foetotoxicity. Many of the POPs are also classified as carcinogens, mutagens and even teratogens.
POPs do not degrade for decades and cause toxicity for a very a long time. Most of these POPs have a half-life period of 10 years and more. There are several reports available regarding contamination of each food crop in Punjab.
The World has changed a lot in the last 50 years(ref1). When DDT was discovered and used widely, the world thought that this was a wonder chemical. Today it is a recognised POPs and countries have banned it, and in a few years it will be phased out of the earth. We strongly believe that inspite of the tirade unleashed by the Pesticide Industry, their lives are also not more than that, and very soon, the APG and CCFI will be forgotten names in history. Because mankind have always struggled to get out of this unsafe existence into a safer and more comfortable world.
We believe that in the wider interest of the farmers, consumers and the humanity as a whole, the APG and the CCFI and all the other cartels selling pesticides should stop this illegal promotional activity and their tirade against the civil society. They should stop selling their poisons. We invite all members of APG and CCFI to visit Punjab with us and find the reality – the reality that bites. They could see the writing on wall if they want.
Please live and let live the life and nature in Punjab
The following are the various international instruments used to regulate pesticides and manage crops safely.
The Codex Alimentarius, and more specifically the Codex Committee on Pesticide Residues, operational since 1966 (41);
· The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer , adopted in 1987 and entered into force in 1989, and its subsequent amendments (42);
· The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal , adopted in 1989 and entered into force in 1992 (39);
· The Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade , adopted in 1998 (1);
· The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, adopted in 2001 (43).B. International policy instruments that provide a general policy context for pesticide management
· The Convention concerning Safety in the Use of Chemicals at Work, adopted in 1990 and entered into force in 1993 (44);
· The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development , proclaimed by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in 1992 (45);
· Agenda 21 – Global Programme of Action on Sustainable Development, and more specifically chapters 14 ( Promoting Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development ) and 19 ( Environmentally Sound Management of Toxic Chemicals, Including Prevention of Illegal International Traffic in Toxic and Dangerous Products ), adopted in 1992 (46);
· The Convention on Biological Diversity , adopted in 1992 and entered into force in 1993 (47);
· The Convention concerning the Prevention of Major Industrial Accidents , adopted in 1993 and entered into force in 1997 (48);
· The Rome Declaration on World Food Security and The World Food Summit Plan of Action , adopted in 1996 (49);
· The World Health Declaration and Health-for-all in the 21 st Century , adopted in 1998 (50).