Monocrotophos; farmers exposure to slow poison

Shimoga Taluk

The use of monocrotophos, a poisonous pesticide is thriving in Soraba Taluk in rural Karnataka.

Bangalore, May 2, 2018: Prasanna Patil, a farmer from Sasurahallu village owns 20 acres of paddy and corn farm and has no knowledge about harmful, banned or safe use of pesticides. Patil works hard on his farm to produce the best yield. He starts his day early in the morning to water his crops and works there until lunch. After his quick afternoon nap, he goes back to farms to spread some fertilizers and pesticides. He takes his pesticide spraying machine to fill it with the available bore well water and without any measuring equipment, he adds the highly toxic monocrotophos pesticides.

After a while, Prasanna can be seen spreading the highly toxic pesticide on his paddy and corns without any protection such as mask, gloves or boots. As soon as he comes back home after a long day of hard work in the field he quickly washes his hand with a soap to grab a bite of evening snack. Prasanna is being slowly poisoned.

Banned and harmful pesticides are being sold in Soraba Taluk to farmers by pre university graduates who violate the law and leads to harmful effects on the farmers and their crops.

The Insecticides Act, 1968 states that any person who applies for grant of license for undertaking pest control operations should be at least a graduate in Agriculture or in Science with Chemistry as a subject with a certificate of minimum of 15 days training from any Central Food Technological Research Institute.

Gurunath Ramappe and his wife in their vegetable farm

Another, farmer Gurunath Ramappe from the same village who owns one and a half acres of a vegetable farm which has many vegetables like ladyfingers tomatoes, spinach, ginger etc  sprays the same harmful pesticides directly on these vegetables and then sells it to the vegetable markets of Soraba, Shiralkoppa, and nearby areas.

Monocrotophos, has been found in common usage among other pesticides in Soraba Taluk. This banned pesticide is hazardous to health and can be termed as slow poison.

A World Health Organisation report “Health implications from monocrotophos use: a review of the evidence in India,”says“monocrotophos can be absorbed following ingestion, inhalation and skin contact. When inhaled, it affects the respiratory system and may trigger bloody or runny nose, coughing, chest discomfort, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath and wheezing. Skin contact with monocrotophos may cause localized sweating and involuntary muscle contractions. Eye contact will cause pain, tears, pupil constriction and blurred vision. Following exposure by any route, other systemic effects may begin within a few minutes or be delayed for up to 12 hours. These may include pallor, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, headache, dizziness, eye pain, blurred vision, constriction or dilation of the pupils, tears, salivation, sweating and confusion.”

“Severe poisoning will affect the central nervous system,”the report continues, “producing lack of coordination, slurred speech, loss of reflexes, weakness, fatigue, involuntary muscle contractions, twitching, tremors of the tongue or eyelids, and eventually paralysis of the body extremities and the respiratory muscles. In severe cases there may also be involuntary defecation or urination, psychosis, irregular heartbeat, unconsciousness, convulsions and coma. Respiratory failure or cardiac arrest may cause death.”

The report also says that, “Repeated daily high-level exposure may gradually lead to poisoning.”

A pesticide shop in Soraba Taluk

Some of the pesticides that are available in Soraba market are expired and the description about the composition, direction for use and precaution to be taken, written on the container of the pesticide are insufficient and not easy to understand. Farmers are using these harmful pesticides without proper knowledge and training which results in gradual infertility of the land and make adverse effects on their yield.

Many studies conducted by experts show monocrotophos adverse effect on soil, crops ( vegetable), air, water and so on.

A study conducted by the Agricultural Products department, Experimental Station, Delaware published in ACS publications shows that monocrotophos was active under test conditions. It also states that rotational crops planted at various time intervals after soil treatment contained significant levels of monocrotophos or its metabolites which can be very harmful for consumption.

Another study by Department of Entomology, Chaudhary Charan Singh Haryana Agricultural University, Haryana, published in ARPN Journal of Agricultural and Biological Science on three types of vegetables; brinjal, cauliflower and okra shows that, “In all the three vegetables, washing reduced the residues by 20-77 per cent and boiling by 32-100 per cent. Maximum (77 per cent) reduction of monocrotophos insecticides was observed in brinjal, followed by 74 per cent in cauliflower and 50 per cent in okra by washing. The same trend was observed by boiling process where maximum (100 per cent) reduction of OP insecticides was observed in brinjal followed by 92 per cent in cauliflower and 75 per cent in okra. Boiling was found comparatively more effective than washing in dislodging the residues.”

Various other studies show how monocrotophos contaminates water and soil. It also affects soil algae.

Undisposed toxic pesticides in Prasanna Patil’s farm

Monocrotophos not only affects humans and crops but also is severely toxic for birds.
Journal of Biodiversity and Environmental Sciences (JBES), a report combined by many experts, published on July 8, 2014 says that monocrotophos is also extremely toxic to birds. Under the ‘conclusion’ section, the report says, “Monocrotophos is insecticide of Asian countries especially India and having high toxicity level for living beings especially to birds.”

There are total 71 pesticides shops in Soraba Taluk and a majority of these pesticides shops do not even have protection equipment likes gloves, mask, boots etc and the agriculture department of Soraba, only pesticide sprayers are given to the farmers but no protective equipment. With no protective equipment, farmers are directly exposed to this highly toxic pesticide which can be injurious to their health and cause death.

A farmer spreading toxic pesticide in his farm without any protection gear

Out of 281 villages in Soraba Taluk, the agriculture department has given training in only eight villages that teaches how to use pesticides and what are precautionary measures need to be taken while spreading the pesticides in farms.

The Center for Science and Environment (CSE) said that existing The Insecticides Act, 1968 has a lot of deficiencies in it. There is a lack of clarity on various aspects such as qualification for manufacturers and sellers and commercial pest-control operators, fixing tolerance limits of pesticides as a precondition of their registration and so on.

In its recommendation to The Pesticide Management Bill, 2008, CSE said that “CSE has worked extensively on the impact of pesticides on environment and health and feels that in its current form the bill has failed to adequately safeguard human and environment health. Based on our study of international best practices and ground realities in India, we recommend changes in the Bill.”

However, The Pesticides Management Bill of 2008, which is still pending in the Parliament, aims to cover these aspects.

A journal  written by R.S. Chauhan and Lokesh Singhal at Indian Veterinary Research Institute, UP suggests “Cowpathy” to curb the harmful use of pesticides. The research states, “All emphasis must be laid on the development of Bio-pesticides like viral, bacterial or fungal pesticides or pesticides of botanical origin like Neem or Tulsi or of cow urine-based pesticides, which can be used in crops to kill the insect pests without polluting the environment.”

By giving emphasis to our Indian ancient literature the research further states that, “To reduce the effect of pesticide residues, some herbal preparations should be developed which can overcome the immunopathological, neuropathic or nephropathy effects, there are many herbs mentioned in our Indian ancient literature, which can be scientifically validated to prevent and control the harmful effects of pesticides. This will certainly give a new direction to the world not to depend on synthetic things.”

Another journal published in International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health states some stringent actions to overcome this hazardous situation. The article suggests that, “Action needed include development of multidisciplinary strategies for local studies on health and environment impact of pesticides; development of sustainable non chemical agriculture technologies; evaluation of interventions; extending and sharing of expertise within the region; strengthening states and communities; and redefining the role of industry towards development of safer products, with responsible marketing and reliable information.”

There are many farmers like Patil and Ramappe who are exposed to these harmful pesticides without knowing and are being poisoned slowly. If nothing will be done soon, we will lose out on our hardworking farmers one by one and only their families will be left to tell the unfair and scary death of these unsung heroes.

 

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