Multiple panels formed, yet Centre flip-flops on banning toxic pesticides

Later the Industry body filed a petition in the Rajasthan High Court and got a stay on the ban order.

Published: 26th March 2023 08:10 AM  |   Last Updated: 27th March 2023 03:25 PM   |  A+A-

Farmers spraying pesticides in a field.

For representational purpose. (Photo | PTI)

NEW DELHI: India recently removed a ban on 24 pesticides, raising concerns of environmentalists. Before that, it continued to ban only three pesticides. The recent decision is a U-turn by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare (MoAFW) from its May 2020 decision to ban all 27 pesticides.

Meanwhile, a couple of petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court asking for a complete ban on the use and manufacture of all 27 pesticides, as recommended by two expert committees.

After questions were raised in the parliament over the use of six Neonicotinoid pesticides registered in India to have had a possible impact on the Honey bee population,the MoAFW formed a committee headed by scientist Dr Anupam Varma in August 2013 to examine the justification of its continued use. Later, another 66 pesticides were added. Dr. Varma submitted reports in December 2015 in four volumes in which the committee categorically recommended a ban on 13 pesticides out of 66. Six of them were to be phased out by 2020. The reports recommended the use 18 pesticides while suggesting data requirement for 27 pesticides.

“If I remember correctly, our committee didn’t find data to take any call on those 27 pesticides and urged the government to provide field use data by 2017,” Varma told this newspaper.

Later, the pesticides industry association made objections to the committee’s recommendations. Then, in 2017, the government formed another Dr SK Malhotra Committee. The committee recommended the 
continued ban on 27 pesticides in 2018.

After that, another sub-committee was formed by the pesticide Registration Committee (RC) -- an apex body to regulate pesticides in India – to review 27 pesticides under Dr SK Khurana. Based on Khurana observation, MoFAW issued a draft notification to ban pesticides in May 2020.

Later the Industry body filed a petition in the Rajasthan High Court and got a stay on the ban order.
“It is a story of review committee after review committee and the industry’s delaying tactics,” says Vipin Saini, an independent pesticide expert.

"Besides the removal of ban, we also recommended changing the label of eight pesticides," said Rajendran.

While experts disagree over the idea of change in labels on pesticides. "Recommendation for change of labelling a fraud act to hide its risk," says Dr Vipin Bhatnagar, Ex FAO-Expert panel member on pesticides specification. He said farmers use it as per local dealers direct them to use. "Pesticides should be banned or only allowed to be used under government supervision like some fumigants," said Bhatnagar.


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