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Pesticides An Essential Input For India’s Food Security

Updated: November 10, 2012 1:39 pm

Access to sufficient and affordable food by adopting sustainable approaches to meet the demands of the present and future generations is the prime concern of the nation. The introduction of ‘green revolution’ in 1970s, when the country was at an ‘edge of an abyss of famine’, transformed India into a ‘food-sufficient’ nation. One of the essential components of this revolution was use of improved crop varieties, highly responsive to fertilizers, irrigation and pesticides.

For many years, we derived satisfaction for having achieved food security. Agriculture in India is fraught with technology fatigue, nature’s fury and other biotic and abiotic factors. For over a decade (1996-2005), the food grains production continued to be around 200 MT. However, an all-time high record production of 235MT was achieved during 2009-10. But the food grains availability/person/day was 444g in 2009, which was even less than that available in 1997, as the production could not match the population increase. By 2021 the country will need nearly 276 MT of food grains and by 2050, the requirement will be double.

Future increases in production will be possible by multi-pronged strategies like increased investment in research & development; producing ‘more from less for more’ from fast dwindling arable area; along with saving losses caused by insect pests, diseases and weeds , which will have a decisive role. In other words, ‘Grain Saved is Grain Produced’. It is estimated that additional production worth Rs. 2.5 lakh crore per annum is possible. The increase in agricultural production is, therefore, a key thrust of the country.

Decisive Role of Pesticides

The people in general have different perceptions about pesticide. Pesticide is any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling or mitigating any pest and could be a chemical substance, biological agent, disinfectant or device used against any pest. Pesticides can be basic (technical) and formulated. While the first category is toxic and hazardous, the formulations are obtained by processing the technical grade materials with emulsifiers and other ingredients. The pesticide introduction for use is highly controlled under the Insecticides Act 1968, and is registered only after satisfying efficacy of the pesticides against the target pest(s) and their safety to the human beings, animals and the environment. A set of conditions is incorporated in the certificate of registration for ensuring the safety during use, and each container of pesticide is accompanied with a label and a leaflet. Pesticides have had a key-role in improving the productivity.

An estimate by DWSR, Jabalpur in 2009 showed that weeds account for 37 per cent of the total annual loss in crop productivity. The use of pesticides has been the most common method to mitigate crop losses by pests. Over the years, there had been increase in pests due to changes in agricultural practices The reports show that total insect pests in pulses, sugarcane and cotton increased manifold. The Division of Agrochemicals, IARI (2008) reported avoidable losses due to insect pests, diseases and weeds from 8 to 90 per cent in different crops, with a highest cost: benefit ratio of 1:28 in groundnut. In general, every rupee spent on plant protection saves on an average the produce worth five rupees.

At present, 230 pesticides are registered in India as against 755 in the USA and 499 in Pakistan. Further, in developed countries like the USA, Europe, Japan, China, etc. the pesticide use is 20 times more than us, and also crop yields are much higher. The pesticide industry is continuously introducing eco-friendly pesticides, which are safe to non-target organisms, have high bioactivity against the target pests at low dosages, greater shelf-life, little or no persistence in environment, eco-friendly manufacturing technology, and low risk to contaminate ground water.

Initiatives for Education and Training

Dhanuka Group is actively undertaking transfer of technology through ‘Integrated Crop Management’, including IPM, Dhanuka kheti ki nai takneek, and soil and water testing and advisories. A Dhanuka Kissan toll-free number provides easy access to farmers for seeking quick advice. Recently Dhanuka Suvidha Kendras for quality inputs and agri-services under ‘Single Window’ system have also been set up. The Group is the first to have agricultural extension management project under public-private partnership with the MP government; with MANAGE, Hyderabad for Diploma Programme for Agri-input Dealers; KVK, Chomu, and Government of Rajasthan for Mobile Soil and Water Testing and Advisories, etc. The Group celebrated ‘50 Years of Agrochemicals in India’ during 2010-11 and organised one-day meet jointly with nine SAUs. The celebrations culminated with a national seminar jointly organised by the ICAR and Dhanuka Agritech Limited on June 1, 2011, at New Delhi.

Misconceptions about Pesticides

Of late some of the NGOs based on ill-founded facts have been making negative publicity against use of fertilizers and pesticides. Even, the issue of pesticides residue in soft drinks has been raised out of context.

We need to acknowledge the immense potential of safe and judicious use of pesticides by partnership of all the stakeholders to ensure food and nutritional security at the national level.

Abhishek please make this article in the box


Myth: Pesticide use causes cancer.

Reality: As per Registry of IARC on Cancer, not a single product is listed as a human cancer causing chemical in Group I.

Myth: There are pesticides residue in vegetables and fruits

Reality: As per report of the All India Network Project on Pesticides Residue of the ICAR, based on analysis of approximately 50,000 samples during 2007-08 to 2010-11, only 1.5 per cent samples showed pesticide residue above MR, which is at lower level than many other countries like the EU, and the UK

Myth: There is pesticide residue in soft drinks.

Reality: In response to a starred question no. 584 in Lok Sabha answered on 10 May 2007, the Hon’ble Minister replied that “samples of soft drinks” checked by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in 2006 at various Central and State laboratories “were within limits.”

Myth: Every intake or trace of pesticide is harmful to health.

Reality: Pesticides molecules are not like bacteria or germs. Pesticides are used in very small quantities and residue measured in ppm—one ppm residue , being equal to the same as 1 cm in 10 kms.

By RG Agarwal

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