The Pesticides Management Bill, 2020 has been approved by the Union Cabinet.
The Bill will regulate the business of pesticides and compensate farmers in case of losses from the use of agrochemicals.
Agrochemicals imply chemicals used in agriculture, such as a pesticide or fertilizer.
Currently, the pesticide business is regulated by rules under the Insecticides Act 1968.
What are the highlights of the bill?
Pesticide Data: It will empower farmers by providing them with all the information about the strength and weakness of pesticides, the risk and alternatives. All information will be available openly as data in digital format and in all languages.
Compensation: The Bill has a unique feature in the form of a provision for compensations in case there is any loss because of the spurious or low quality of pesticides. If required, a central fund will be formed to take care of the compensations.
Organic Pesticides: The Bill also intends to promote organic pesticides.
Registration of Pesticide Manufacturers: All pesticide manufacturers have to be registered and bound by the new Act, once it is passed. The advertisements of pesticides will be regulated so there should be no confusion or no cheating by the manufacturers.
What is the status of India in terms of pesticide usage?
India is among the leading producers of pesticides in Asia. India is the fourth-largest producer of pesticides in the world, with the market segmentation tilted mainly towards insecticides, with herbicides on the increase in the recent past. It is reported that eight states consume more than 70% of the pesticides used in India. Amongst the crops, paddy accounts for the maximum share of consumption (26-28%), followed by cotton (18-20%), notwithstanding all the hype around BT technology.
In the domestic market, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana are among the states with the highest recorded consumption.
Insecticides Act, 1968
It was brought into force with effect from August 1971 with a view of regulating the import, manufacture, sale, transport, distribution and use of insecticides in order to prevent risk to human beings and animals.Central Insecticides Board was established under Section 4 of the Act and it works under the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ WelfareThe board advises the central government and state governments on technical matters arising out of the administration of the act and to carry out the other functions assigned to it.
Is there any loop in present law that we need an amendment (s)?
The current state of regulation of pesticides in India, using the extant law called Insecticides Act 1968, has not caught up with post-modern pest management science nor has taken cognizance of a huge body of scientific evidence on the ill effects of synthetic pesticides. Therefore, it is high time that new legislation is brought in.
Besides, the acute pesticide poisoning deaths and hospitalizations that Indian farmworkers and farmers fall prey to are ignominious by now. It is not just human beings but wildlife and livestock that are poisoned routinely by toxic pesticides as numerous reports indicate.
Image Credit: The Hindu
What are the harmful effects of pesticides?
Harmful Effects on Farmers: Experts believe that chronic low-level pesticide exposure is associated with a broad range of nervous system symptoms such as headache, fatigue, dizziness, tension, anger, depression, and impaired memory, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease, among others.Harmful Effect on Consumers: Pesticides go up the food chain by working their way through the environment and into the soil or the water systems after which they are eaten by aquatic animals or plants and ultimately humans. This process is called Biomagnification.Harmful Effect on Agriculture: Continued use of pesticides for decades has contributed significantly to the current ecological, economic and existential crisis of the Indian agriculture sector.Regulatory Issues: Although agriculture is a state subject producing, education and research are governed under the Insecticides Act, 1968 which is a central Act, and hence state governments have no direct role in amending it.
Need to establish an independent Monitoring & Review Committee,
composed of experts from various sectors like toxicology, animal husbandry, public health, etc., to conduct review studies.
There is a need to introduce the much-needed human health risk assessment component in the clearance of new pesticides. The toxicology tests required by the regulator must be made more comprehensive. For comparison, up to 70 toxicology tests could be required by the regulators depending upon the product’s intended use. This covers the assessment of impacts on people, animals and environment.
FSSAI could fix maximum acceptable limits for pesticide residues in all classes of food.
More attention must be paid to consumer rights in this issue.
Need to establish a robust system for grievance redressal and compensation. The penalties imposed on violators must be in proportion to the sales achieved.
Use of polluter pay principle for paying compensation for losses of human or animal lives, livelihood and environment.
The government can mandate the pesticide companies to market their products with necessary safety gears of appropriate quality.
The FAO and WHO, in the international code of conduct on pesticide management,
recommended avoiding the use of pesticides that require the use of PPEs that are uncomfortable/expensive
Pesticides must be regulated like drugs– i.e. cannot be advertised/ promoted directly to the users. This is because proper regulation of advertising and promotion of these toxic compounds can address their overuse and misuse. The pesticide companies’ representatives should not be the last point of contact to the farmers.