28 August 2006 00:00 [Source: ICB]
With all the bad news about toxic pesticides, Indian consumers - and chemical companies - have a lot to worry about.
Not long after an industry watchdog in India unveiled findings that soft drinks contain pesticide residue, another pressure group has accused chemical companies like Bayer, DuPont and Syngenta of peddling hazardous pesticides, and thus killing scores of India farmers in the process.
The Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA's) stand is clear. Pesticides such as thiodicarb, disulphton, parathion and oxydemeton methyl, which the World Health Organization (WHO) classifies as extremely hazardous, should be withdrawn.
Organic farming is one alternative. Farmers in India's state of Andhra Pradesh were successfully educated in using non-pesticide methods to control pests in their crops.
However, the problem is that poorly educated farmers are caught between chemical companies selling hazardous pesticides and the government, which is not regulating the market properly.
The bottom line is, as long as these pesticides are commercially available, farmers will use them, often with disastrous consequences. In Warangal alone, a district in the state of Andhra Pradesh, 500 died in 2001 from inhaling toxic pesticides, the CSA says.
But pesticide manufacturers will only be able to stop selling WHO Class 1a products when they have developed new offerings. The lead-up to that involves an arduous process of research and development, testing and a host of administrative hurdles in India. Meanwhile, farmers across the country continue to be at risk.
It doesn't help that the Indian state is not taking an active role in solving the problem.
The CSA believes the government should do more, like banning hazardous pesticides and regulating the marketing activities of chemical companies. It should also educate India's predominantly rural population on organic farming and expand research efforts on ecological farming practices, says the CSA.
This is not the first time the Indian government has shown its support of multinational companies instead of addressing health issues that affect its population.
A recent study by India's Centre for Science and Environment found pesticides such as lindane, chlorpyrifos and heptachlor in beverages like Coke, Pepsi and Miranda Lemon.
While the findings sparked uproar among consumers, the Confederation of Indian Industry has expressed concern that the public outcry against the soft drinks giants would 'enormously impact the country's image and credibility'.
>> For greater Insight see page 16
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