Order to restrict use of weed killer herbicide in India delayed, deadline for objections extended
Aug. 11, 2020
Amid demands from several organisations to impose a complete ban on use of Glyphosate in India, the Centre has extended a deadline for two months to receive objections or suggestions on the agriculture ministry’s recent draft order on restricting use of the herbicide.
The ministry had notified the draft order on July 7 and given 30 days to stakeholders including experts and farmers to submit their comments on it.
“The deadline has, now, been extended for 60 more days through a fresh notification, making it possible for stakeholders to
send suggestions to the government on the July 7 draft order till October 4,” said an official.
Though the ministry in its draft proposed only restricted use of Glyphosate through pest control operators (PCOs), several
organisations, including Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) and RSS-affiliate Swadeshi Jagran Manch
(SJM), have been demanding complete ban on the use of the herbicide which, they claim, is quite hazardous for human health
Maharashtra-based farmer organisation, Shetkari Sanghatana, on the other hand, opposed restriction or ban on Glyphosate,
arguing that the move will hurt genetically modified cotton farmers in the country.
There have been reports of widespread use of Glyphosate, essentially a weed killer, by those cotton farmers who are illegally
growing unapproved transgenic varieties of HTBt (Herbicide Tolerant) cotton to save on labour costs in Maharashtra and other states.
The Shetkari Sanghatana has long been demanding approval of HTBt cotton variety. Many farmers in Maharashtra have openly
been planting HTBt cotton and using Glyphosate to save on labour costs.
The SJM national co-convenor, Ashwani Mahajan, even flagged this issue in his objections on the July 7 draft order. He, in his
note to ministry, said that the Glyphosate is blatantly being used for illegally grown cotton and this has been going on for years
with full knowledge of a central regulator under environment ministry.
Similarly, the ASHA in its response on the draft order on restriction of use of Glyphosate, said, “On the face of it, it appears as
though this will indeed restrict the usage and bring down the rampant and illegal misuse of Glyphosate quite beyond its
registered uses. And may be the agriculture ministry thinks that this is adequate to address the legitimate scientific concerns
around the numerous adverse impacts of Glyphosate.”
“However, the hitch with this order is that the government has not restricted sale of Glyphosate and has sought to regulate
‘usage’ of Glyphosate. Usage, which happens after the pesticide is purchased at the retailer end is not regulated and not in control of the government in terms of its capabilities to regulate. In the absence of end-use regulation, it is unlikely that the government will be able to check whether usage after purchase by farmers is happening through pest control operators (PCOs) or not, that too in the case of lakhs of farmers who are currently using Glyphosate indiscriminately, without full information on the chemical,” said Kavitha Kuruganti, Co-Convenor, ASHA, while pointing out at major flaw of the July 7 draft order.
Besides, she said, “There is enough evidence on the negative impacts of Glyphosate that warrants a full ban on the toxic
chemical and it is not clear why the Government of India is dithering on the same.”
At present, Glyphosate is approved for use in India for tea plantation and non cropped area. But, definition of non-cropped area
is quite vague. Many states have already restricted or prohibited its sale through different orders in past couple of years.
Andhra Pradesh was the first state to issue orders restricting the usage of Glyphosate by regulating the sales in non-crop
growth seasons in September 2018. Subsequently, Punjab, Kerala, Maharashtra and Telangana had issued orders, restricting
sale of this herbicide.
The West Bengal had in June last year restricted its usage to only 6 tea-growing districts in the state. The Odisha government
also put out orders about educating farmers about negative impacts of Glyphosate.
“One of the key fallouts of herbicides like Glyphosate is also that farmers will start shifting away from poly-cropping to
monocropping, especially when genetically modified herbicide-tolerant (HT) seeds are also clandestinely available. Instead of
multi-cropped resilient farming, this will increase riskiness in farming, that too in the age of climate change which requires
resilient farming as a key adaptation strategy,” said Kuruganti.
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