New Delhi: Pesticides are not vital to ensure food security and the world needs a new treaty to regulate excessive use and move towards sustainable farm practices, experts from the United Nations have said in a new report submitted to the UN’s Human Rights Council this week.
Pointing to research which show pesticides are responsible for an estimated 200,000 acute poisoning deaths each year globally, UN’s special rapporteurs Hilal Elver and Baskut Tuncak told the Council in Geneva that widely divergent standards of production, use and protection in different countries are creating double standards, impacting human rights.
According to the report, close to 99% of fatalities due to pesticide use occur in developing countries where health, safety and environmental regulations are weak.
India, the world’s second most populous country where more than half of the population draws its sustenance from agriculture, finds several mentions in the report.
The Bhopal gas leak in 1984 killed thousands and led to major reforms globally but did not stop disasters related to manufacture of pesticides, the report said, adding pesticide waste and obsolete chemicals are a serious health hazard.
The report also noted cases like the deaths of 23 children in India in 2013 after consuming a meal contaminated with the highly hazardous pesticide monocrotophos, and high rates of illness and deaths linked to the use of endosulfan in Kerala.
Citing a report from the non profit Pesticide Action Network the experts said that in the state of Punjab companies like Bayer CropScience and Syngenta failed to inform farmers about the dangers of their pesticides or necessary safety measures.
“The pesticide industry’s efforts to influence policymakers and regulators have obstructed reforms and paralysed global pesticide restrictions globally,” the report said, adding, “scientists who uncover health and environmental risks to the detriment of corporate interests may face grave threats to their reputations, and even to themselves.”
“The international community must work on a comprehensive, binding treaty to regulate hazardous pesticides throughout their life cycle, taking into account human rights principles,” the report recommended.
At a national level it suggested setting up of an independent risk assessment and registration process, imposition of penalties on companies which fabricate evidence and encouraging farmers to adopt more ecological practices.
“The past three to four decades India has consistently ignored strong scientific evidence by allowing use of pesticides that are banned in other countries,” said R. Sridhar from Thanal, a Kerala based non profit.
“Between 2001 and 2011 the number of pesticides allowed by India and banned elsewhere went up from 33 to 67,” Sridhar said, adding, “despite successful large scale experiments in non pesticide management of crops in states like Andhra Pradesh, governments and regulators have failed to promote it.”