Friday, 17 September 2010

Pesticide usage in Kerala’s agricultural sector

Agriculture contributes 17.2% to Kerala’s economy (as of 2002-2003). Correspondingly, the sector requires a sizeable amount of pesticides (roughly 656.5 tonnes per annum), of which fungicides account for 73%.

These facts were highlighted in a paper by Indira Devi (‘Pesticides in agriculture – A boon or a curse? A case study of Kerala’) published in the Economic and Political Weekly. The study focused on farms of mango and banana (in Palakkad and Wayanad districts), pineapple (in Ernakulam and Idukki districts), bitter gourd (in Idukki and Kottayam districts), and amaranthus and okra (in Palakkad and Trivandrum districts), and stated that 56% of mango farmers and 86% of banana farmers use chemical pesticides.

Even if there is an overall decrease in pesticide usage, the currently favoured and indiscriminately used pesticides are those that are potent in small doses, and relationally, more toxic. These include:
- PAN bad actor chemicals such as carbendazim, diuron, mancozeb, and paraquat (which are banned elsewhere for their highly toxic effects ranging from groundwater pollution to carcinogenic and teratogenic properties)
- Lindane, the highly toxic restricted-use pesticide, the usage of which has been increasing over the years (apparently with an annual compound growth rate of 107.54%)
- Cypermethrin, fenvalerate, and neem-based pesticides (which have an increase of 21-30%).
- The carcinogenic Methyl parathion (with an increase of 16.83%)
- Chloripyriphos (an increased usage of 7.5 %).
- The highly toxic Methoxyl ethyl mercury chloride.
- The banned Endosulphan (allegedly used in some mango plantations in Palakkad)
- The arsenic and phosophorus containing Calcium carbide (the effects of which ranges from digestive disorders to stroke and hypoxia), which is usually used as a ripening agent.

The chemical sprayings for mango comprises of various fractions/mixtures of carbaryl, cyperrmethrine, endosulfan, malathion, mercaptothion, planofix, profenofos, sevin, and sulphur. The number of pesticides used by farmers averages around 14 for banana, 15 for bitter gourd, and 11 for okra and amaranthus. Unsurprisingly, market surveys have revealed high levels of residual pesticide in vegetables and fruits grown in Kerala.

It is quite likely that the farmers who use these pesticides are ignorant of the injurious health effects posed by these chemicals, not just to the consumers but also to themselves. As far as they are concerned, they are using potent pesticides which are much more effective in accomplishing its purpose than the recommended and safer options. Perhaps they are in the same boat as most of us who seldom think before choosing cosmetic products.


Aniruddha H D said...

It's the same scenario everywhere. I'm not sure if the government is doing anything at all to educate these farmers, or the NGOs. I don't blame the farmers, they probably don't know all the chemical properties of the pesticides they use, they are just doing what they think is best for their crop. These chemicals enter land and water causing a rather more magnified problem besides for those who directly consume/produce these fruits.

David said...

Very interesting, thank you! These pesticides can cause all sorts of health problems for the farmers. As neurotoxins they can cause considerable mental changes, such as depression which the farmers might not necessarily associate with the chemical, but with other factors, and many of them are also synergistic and so the damage is magnified. Worrying.

Anonymous said...

The post is interesting and so are the previous comments to the posts. Why is it that we often jeopardize the long term future for short term benefits. The scene is indeed worrying. The effect of many pesticides tend to be manifested in the future; often cumulative. I wouldn't be at all surpirsed if the increasing rate of several cancers mighthave a link to this


By using this blog, you signify your agreement to this disclaimer. Do not use this website if you do not agree to this disclaimer.

This blog is published by Sarah Stephen and Ruth Stephen, and reflects the personal views of the contributors, in their individual capacities as a concerned citizen of this planet. The term 'Ecoratorio', as well as every graphic, opinion, comment, and statement expressed in this blog are the exclusive property of the blog publishers and contributors (© 2009 - present), unless explicitly stated otherwise, and should not be disseminated without the written consent of the author(s). The views expressed in this blog are not necessarily representative of the views of any school, college, University, company, organisation, city, town, state, country, or church where the author(s) have studied, worked, worshipped, or lived, and is not sponsored or endorsed by them.

This blog and its contents does not receive any sponsorship, financial or otherwise, neither is it aimed at generating any money.

The matter on this blog has been prepared for informational purposes only, and the reader(s) should not solely rely upon this information for any purpose nor should he/she assume that this information applies to his/her specific situation. Furthermore, the matter on this blog may or may not reflect the current and future trends/developments, may or may not be general or specific, accordingly, information on this blog is not promised, or guaranteed, to be correct or complete. The publishers and author(s) explicitly disclaims all liability in respect to actions taken, or not taken, based on any, or all, the contents of this blog. Thus, the reader(s) is/are reading the posts and arriving at conclusions about the information, or about the author(s), or otherwise, at his/her own risk.

This blog may contain weblinks, which are provided solely for the reader(s) convenience. Such weblinks to another blog or website does not imply any relationship, affiliation, endorsement, responsibility, or approval of the linked resources or their contents (over which we have no control). Accessing these links will be at the reader(s)’s own risk.

The publishers and author(s) are not responsible for translation and interpretation of content. Occasionally, the blog might contain subjects which may be considered offensive from certain individuals’ points-of-view, and the author(s) refuses to accept any liability for any psychological, physical, and emotional reactions, short-term or long-term, which the posts might generate in the reader(s). However, each post in this blog is the individual opinion of the author(s) and is not intended to malign any city/town/village, state, country, continent, faith, religion, practice, ethnic group, club, organisation, company, or individual. Neither are the publishers and author(s) responsible for any statements bound to government, religious, or other laws from the reader(s)’s country of origin.

The publishers and author(s) reserves the right to update, edit, delete or otherwise remove, the posts or any comments, the latter of which might be deemed offensive or spam. The publishers and author(s) cannot warrant that the use of this blog will be uninterrupted or error-free, or that defects on this site will be corrected. The publishers and author(s) also reserves the right to publish in print media, in whole or part, any of the posts which might be an edited version. If the reader(s) has a problem with any post, the publishers and author(s) expects them to contact them, explaining the reasons for their discomfort. However, if the reader(s) choose to communicate with the publishers and author(s) by email, the reader(s) must note that since the security of unencrypted email is uncertain, sending sensitive or confidential emails holds the risks of such uncertainty and possible lack of confidentiality.

The publishers and author(s) reserve the right to change this Disclaimer, from time to time, in their sole and absolute discretion. If the reader(s) using this website after the institution of such changes, he/she is signifying their agreement to these changes. The publishers and author(s) also reserve the right to discontinue any aspect of this website at any time.