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Explained: Why Punjab govt’s temporary ban on nine pesticides can’t put a stop on their useqrcode

−− Farm experts, pesticide dealers and farmers said that such temporary bans cannot stop usage of such pesticides even for Basmati and non-Basmati crop, which is the main target of the government.

Aug. 27, 2020

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Aug. 27, 2020

Punjab government, through a notification, has banned the usage of nine pesticides, generally used for Basmati and non Basmati crops, for 60 days — August 14 to October 14. There are over 10,000 pesticide dealers in Punjab and almost all of them had stocked up ahead of the sowing season. The government has directed the dealers to either return the stock to the manufactures or remove them from display of their stores. 


More than half of these pesticides are also used by farmers for other crops such as wheat, vegetables, fruits, sugarcane as well as for seed treatment. Farm experts, pesticide dealers and farmers said that such temporary bans cannot stop usage of such pesticides even for Basmati and non-Basmati crop, which is the main target of the government.


What are the pesticides whose sale has been banned for 60 days?


The nine pesticide that have been banned temporarily include Acephate, Carbendazim, Thiamethoxam, Triazofos, Tricyclazole, Buprofezin, Carbofuron, Propiconazole, and Thiophanate Methyl.


Why is this ban only for 60 days?


Experts say that farmers use these pesticides even after the grain formation stage in the rice crop. It leads to the presence of pesticides beyond the permissible maximum residue limit (MRL) on the grains after harvesting of the crop. The EU has fixed the MRL for all these agro-chemicals at 0.01 mg per kg except for Triazophos for which the MRL is 0.02 mg. The harvesting of early varieties of Basmati and non-Basmati crops starts in late September and early October, respectively. If farmers do not stop spraying these pesticides at least 40-50 days before the harvesting, a MRL cannot be ruled out.


Also, the 60-day ban has been ordered with the main focus on Basmati varieties, which is mainly grown for export. Government does not want to annoy big exporters who face rejection of the consignments by the European Union (EU), the USA, and the Middle East. The EU had earlier rejected Indian Basmati due to the presence of MRL beyond the specified limit.


Is it possible to put a complete stop on usage of pesticides on Basmati and non-Basmati crop?


An attempt to do so had failed last year when Punjab government had restricted the usage of all these pesticides during paddy season and various awareness camps were also organised for farmers across state. The farmers, however, had even used the pesticides and Punjab government admitted as much in its notification last week that samples tested in state’s two labs had found pesticides in rice much above the specified MRL value.


Why was chemical residue found in grains last year despite restrictions on pesticide usage?


Most farmers stock up on the pesticides ahead of the sowing season. They used it on the crop even after the Punjab government’s notification, following which Food Safety Laboratory (Kharar) had found high MRL in nine samples and Punjab Biotechnology Incubator Agri and Food Testing Laboratory (SAS Nagar) in seven samples.


This year too, big farmers stocked up on a couple pesticides before the ban order came in. “Several farmers purchased the pesticides in the beginning of the season. They even use banned Carbendazim, a fungicide, to treat the seed for better germination,” said Khalsa.


He said that while government has warned dealers of heavy fine, there was no way to stop the farmers who already have the chemicals with them.


“Farmers in Punjab are more concerned about their crop output and don’t mind using such chemicals,” said a farmer, adding that checking pf dealers in remote areas too is difficult.


How can the government stop the complete usage of these chemicals on rice crop?


The only way government can completely stop its usage on rice crop is if it bans these nine pesticides for all other crops such as vegetables, fruits, and sugarcane or bars manufacturers from producing these agro-chemicals.


“Government says that safety of human beings is of paramount importance and that these pesticides should not be used then what it not putting a halt on their manufacturing,” asked Khalsa, adding that an agro-chemical harmful for one crop is harmful for every other crop. “Wheat and rice are used months after their harvesting but the vegetables are consumed immediately. We are only trying to protect the Basmati as it is exported. Ironically, the Basmati rejected by the EU was consumed in India. How was something not fit for consumption in 28 countries, was good for our people,” he asked.


What do experts says about this temporary ban?


Agriculture department officials said that the farmers can grow every crop without using any chemical. They said of the nine banned pesticides, one — Tricyclazole — is used only for Basmati and can be permanently banned. Four of the remaining eight — Acephate, Carbofuron, Cabendenzim and Thiophinate Methyl — figure in the list of 27 pesticides proposed to be banned by Centre. For remaining four — Buprofezin, Propiconazole, Trizophos and Thiamethoxam — PAU had recommended safe alternatives as stated by government in its notification. “Government cannot discriminate against its own people by banning these pesticides for just one crop, which is to be consumed by people in places other than India,” said a PAU expert.


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