Agriculture Bytes

Pesticides Report accuses manufacturers of ignoring farmers’ safety

New Delhi, October 19 (G’nY News Service): An Ad hoc Monitoring Report prepared by the Pesticides Action Network-Asia Pacific (PAN Asia Pacific) along with Kheti Virasat Mission, and others, for submission to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and World Health Organisation (WHO) has accused Bayer and Syngenta of non-adherence to labelling and safety norms with regard to their pesticides.

Information on the claims of (non-)adherence of the two companies in question was gathered inthe Malwa Region of Punjab, India, during a pilot visit in September 2014 and a more detailed survey in March 2015.

This report focuses particularly on six pesticides, Nativo (Bayer), Confidor (Bayer), Regent (Bayer), Larvin (Bayer), Gramoxone (Syngenta), and Matador (Syngenta).

All the selected pesticides are widelyavailable and frequently used in the study area, and classified as moderately hazardous by WHO. The ingredients of these pesticides have been classified as likely carcinogens by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the United States.

The labels and leaflets of the pesticides were analysed in comparison with the requirements inthe relevant sections of the Code of Conduct as well as the FAO Guidelines on Good LabellingPractice for Pesticides.

 

As per the survey, with32 farmer interviews in nine villages across the Malwa region of Punjab toassess the understanding of safety information on the labels, training given to them, and farmers’ access to and use of personal protective equipment (PPE), it was found that: a.The labels lackessential information to be provided according to the Code of Conduct and LabellingGuidelines, and, b. adequate training of company representatives and users, as well as access to PPEin local markets is still lacking.Theinterviews further indicated that company representatives at various levels are aware of theseapparent violations in the Punjab.

Instructions on labels were never given in Punjabi. Besides, the labelling lacked clarity, or the font size was too tiny to be read. Farmers, hence, rarely read about the product, and remained unaware of its long-term implications.

It was further found that labels and leaflets often lack sufficient and detailed information on PPE, safety information, instructions for use, and proper disposal of containers after use. As a result, farmers were found to be using empty pesticide containers to store water for bathing and drinking, and even using attractive small containers to store condiments and salt.

In fact, there is a very high incidence of cancer in rural Punjab today. As field coordinators at the KrishiVirasat Mission point out, “Nearly every fourth family in rural Punjab has a cancer-afflicted patient. Village Rodikapura in Faridkot district is so badly affected that there have been 12 deaths in the last 2-3 months.

There are quite a few others terminally ill.”However, Kheti Virasat Mission Executive Director Umendra Dutt says, “The problem lies in the nexus between agricultural universities, companies, and retailers who keep orchestrating on the advantages of pesticides, and glorify the use of chemical fertilizers and mechanized farming. A farmer is termed ‘progressive’ and ‘modern’ if he opts for these methods. If there is several-fold brainwashing involved, it is inevitable that the farmer gives in”.

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