Indian government urged to push through with total ban of 27 pesticides

Press Release

Farmer mixing pesticides with his bare hands in Tamil Nadu, India. (Photo: PANAP)

Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Asia Pacific and PAN India strongly urges the Indian government to push through with its initial recommendation of a total ban on 27 toxic pesticides and prioritise people’s health and the environment over chemical industry profits.

The two advocacy groups issued this joint statement after the Indian Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, responding to industry groups, amended an 18th May draft order for a total ban on 27 pesticides. In the 10th June revised order, government will now allow the manufacture of these pesticides for export purposes. It also extended the period for comments by stakeholders from 45 to 90 days, with an official even quoted in a news report as saying that the government may review the ban “if industry furnishes documents proving that these chemicals are safe for environment.”

“We laud the Indian government for taking this much-awaited decisive step to ban these 27 pesticides, many of which are already banned in other countries. However, recent developments show that the ban is in the process of being watered down, or worse, withdrawn completely with no other reason other than the profit motive of the chemical industry. If allowed to happen, it will put to waste many years of independent study by its own expert panel and derail ongoing efforts to promote safer alternatives—something that should actually be a priority given the current health crisis,” said Sarojeni Rengam, PANAP executive director.

Rengam stressed that allowing the manufacture and export of these pesticides reinforces “double standards” in pesticides trade, wherein countries are allowed to export pesticides that are already banned in their home countries. “Developed countries have been allowed to manufacture and export pesticides that they have already banned, revealing an unjust double standard that keeps the cycle of poison going. It’s a dirty practice that India, as a responsible member of the global community, must not replicate, keeping in mind global environmental health and well-being,” she said. The group noted that Indian pesticide exports go to countries like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka where PANAP have also monitored high cases of pesticide poisoning.

 Twenty of the 27 pesticides are part of PAN International’s list of Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs), or pesticides with proven high acute toxicity, long-term health effects, and hazards to ecosystems. The ministry’s ban order itself states that these pesticides are carcinogenic, neurotoxic, disruptive to the hormonal system, and linked to reproductive and developmental disorders. They are also highly toxic to bees, aquatic organisms and birds.

PAN India pointed out that some of these pesticides are already covered by state-level bans. “Two of these pesticides (monocrotophos, acephate) are already banned in the state of Maharashtra after being implicated in the high incidence of poisoning in cotton farming communities. The Punjab state government did not issue fresh licenses to five of the 27 pesticides (2,4-D, benfuracarb, dicofol, methomyl, monocrotophos) due to their harmful effects. In Kerala, some of these pesticides (monocrotophos, carbofuran, atrazine) have been banned since 2011 due to public health concerns. Evidence on the ground is clear: our farmers should no longer be using these pesticides,” said Dileep Kumar, PAN India assistant director.

Additionally, 6 of the 27 pesticides (atrazine, carbofuran, chlorpyrifos, malathion, mancozeb, monocrotophos) are on PANAP’s list of Twenty Pesticides that are Toxic to Children, whose effects include birth defects, brain damage and reduced IQs. Monocrotophos, in particular, is responsible for the Bihar tragedy in 2013, wherein 23 schoolchildren died after eating food contaminated by the pesticide.

Analysis by PAN India shows that there are currently 282 pesticides registered for use in India. “These 27 pesticides forms less than 10 percent of all registered pesticides. Hence, banning them would not impact food security and agriculture production, and even the assessment of the government found that alternatives are available to all of them. Several pesticides are also usually used for a single crop pest combination, so banning some of them would not affect crop health management but would definitely contribute to reducing the toxic burden of communities as well as Indian consumers,” Kumar added.

Jayakumar Chelaton, PAN India director, added that many of the pesticides proposed for ban are implicated in both occupational and self-poisonings in India. “Banning these pesticides is expected to bring down poisoning incidences and ensure a safer working farm environment in the country. PAN India is happy to support the government in eliminating toxic pesticides and assist in replacing these with agroecological farming practices.”

PAN India urges the Ministry of Agriculture to review all the remaining pesticides that are registered for use in the country with the same criteria used for assessing the 27 pesticides, and come up with stringent actions for protecting human health and the environment. It also calls on the government to amend the proposed Pest Management Bill 2020, as the current version has several deficiencies concerning pesticides registration, protection of workers and end users, and business and promotion practices.

“The international community is vigilantly watching to see whether the Indian government will uphold public interest or cave in to industry pressure with the 27 pesticides ban. We have high hopes that it will stand by the findings of its expert panel and that it will base its final decision on independent, global, and scientific evidence and concrete experiences of farmers, not the self-serving and profit-motivated statements by the chemical industry,” said Dr. Narasimha Reddy, PAN India consultant.###

Pesticide Action Network (PAN) is a network of over 600 participating non-governmental organizations, institutions and individuals in over 90 countries working to replace the use of hazardous pesticides with ecologically sound and socially just alternatives.

PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP) is a PAN regional center based in Penang, Malaysia. PAN India is a national non-profit organisation based in Kerala, India.

For reference:

PAN Asia Pacific- Ms. Sarojeni Rengam, executive director: sarojeni.rengam@panap.net

PAN India- A. D. Dileep Kumar, Ph. 09447340748; Dr. Narasimha Reddy Donthi, Ph. 09010205742; Jayakumar Chelaton Ph. 09447016587

The press release in other languages: Hindi, Tamil, Telugu