Toxic farming: 

Toxic farming

Context:

  • After an array of farmer deaths  because of pesticides, it is high time that the government had taken some concrete steps to regulate toxic chemicals used in agriculture.

Usage of pesticides in India: an overview:

  • Pesticides are substances that are meant to control pests or weeds.
  • The term pesticide covers a wide range of compounds including insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, rodenticides, molluscicides, nematicides, plant growth regulators and others.
  • The production of pesticides started in India in 1952. The pattern of pesticide usage in India is different from that for the world in general. For example,
  • In India, 76% of the pesticide used is insecticide, as against 44% globally.
  • The main use of pesticides in India is for cotton crops, followed by paddy and wheat.

What are the harmful effects of pesticides?

  • Accidents in pesticide manufacturing units cause  great loss of human life.
  • The high risk groups exposed to pesticides include production workers, formulators, sprayers, mixers, loaders and agricultural farm workers.
  • Harmful chemicals may seep into and contaminate ground water. ( which can further lead to Bio-accumulation and bio-magnification)
  • Repeated use of pesticides on cotton, fruits, vegetables, tobacco and other crops causes harm to beneficial organisms like biocontrol agents, soil, wild and aquatic life.
  • Pesticides may kill grain- and plant-feeding birds.

What are measures taken to regulate the use of pesticides in India?

  • Pesticide Management Bill – 2008:  Proposed as a step towards promoting safe use of pesticides, this Bill seeks to regulate the manufacture, inspection, testing and distribution of pesticides.
  • The Bill establishes a procedure to licence manufacturers, distributors and retailers of pesticides, to be administered by state governments.
  • A Central Pesticides Board to be formed to advice on use and disposal of pesticides on sound lines, as envisaged under the law.
  • A stronger law will eliminate the weaknesses in the current rules that govern enforcement and introduce penalties where there are none.
  • Aligning the new pesticides regulatory framework with food safety laws and products used in health care will make it more worthwhile.

What are the alternatives to pesticides?

  • There are alternatives to using pesticides. These are generally known as sustainable agriculture or alternative agriculture. Some of the alternative methods are as follows:
  • Organic farming:  It relies on fertilizers of organic origin such as compost manure, green manure, and bone meal and places emphasis on techniques such as crop rotation and companion planting.
  • Crop rotation: Crop rotation is the practice of growing a series of dissimilar or different types of crops in the same area in sequenced seasons.
  • It helps in reducing soil erosion and increases soil fertility and crop yield.
  • Polyculture: Polyculture is agriculture using multiple crops in the same space, providing crop diversity in imitation of the diversity of natural ecosystems, and avoiding large stands of single crops, or monoculture.
  • Trap crops: A trap crop is a plant that attracts agricultural pests, usually insects, away from nearby crops.
  • This form of companion planting can save the main crop from decimation by pests without the use of pesticides.

Organic farming is an alternative agricultural system which originated early in the 20th century in reaction to rapidly changing farming practices. Organic farming continues to be developed by various organic agriculture organizations today. It relies on fertilizers of organic origin such as compost manure, green manure, and bone meal and places emphasis on techniques such as crop rotation and companion planting. Biological pest control, mixed cropping and the fostering of insect predators are encouraged. In general, organic standards are designed to allow the use of naturally occurring substances while prohibiting or strictly limiting synthetic substances.

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