Sunday, January 30, 2011

Maneka wants all states to ban endosulfan

HUBLI: MP and environmentalist Maneka Gandhi has urged the state governments to ban the use of endosulfan to protect soil fertility and crops. Speaking to reporters here at the Hubli airport en route to Haveri on Saturday, she said the use of endosulfan pesticide has proved fatal in many cases. 

"It is causing huge damage to soil fertility and crops, besides severely affecting the health of people who consume crops sprayed with endosulfan," she added. Kerala government has already banned the use of endosulfan, she said, urging the other states to follow suit. This, she said, will protect not only soil fertility, but also the lives of people.


Dubbing the proposed Seeds Bill drafted by the Centre as "anti-farmer Bill", the MP said: "We will strongly protest the implementation of the bill in the upcoming Parliament session in the interest of our farmers." She highlighted the need to change the present agricultural policy to make it more farmer-friendly. "The government should extensively popularize organic farming," the MP said.

The process of certifying organic products should be conducted properly, she said, and urged the Centre to provide marketing facilities to sell organic products in each district of all the states. When asked about the "alleged" rampant corruption in Karnataka, she said Congress has no moral right to question the government as "corruption has become too rampant at the Centre". The land de-notification and other issues have been blown out of proportion by the opposition to bring disrepute to BJP, she claimed. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Pesticides Continue to Harm Cambodia’s Farmers

Photo: Reuters
Cambodian farmers work on the rice field in Kampong Speu province, west of Phnom Penh, (File)

A new study shows that many Cambodian vegetable farmers suffer from acute pesticide poisoning. It is the latest to indicate that Cambodia, like many other developing nations, is struggling to protect farmers and consumers from the dangers of pesticides.

Twenty-two-year-old Srey Kuot is a contract farmer who grows vegetables on a plot of land outside the capital, Phnom Penh. Like most Cambodian farmers she knows pesticides can harm her health. But, like most, she mixes several into a poisonous cocktail.

She says when she sprays pesticides she uses gloves, boots, a mask and a long shirt and trousers. If she did not, she says, it would enter her body and cause illness, which will be very difficult to cure, so she has to take precautions. But Srey Kuot has no idea what pesticides she uses because the seller at the market in Phnom Penh provides them to her and tells her how to use them.

She says the person who gives her the pesticide tells her how strong it is. And the labels for these chemicals are only in Vietnamese and Thai. A group of Danish researchers recently interviewed 89 farmers growing vegetables on outskirts of Phnom Penh. They found that 90 percent had experienced symptoms of acute pesticide poisoning.

Their report, published this month in the Journal of Toxicology, says many lack suitable protective clothing, even though about half the pesticides used by the farmers in that study are classified by the World Health Organization as Class I or Class II - which means they are moderately to extremely hazardous to human health. Some of those pesticides are banned here, but the Danish report says they are smuggled into Cambodia.

The Danish survey echoes one done in 2008 by the Pesticide Action Network, Asia and the Pacific - or PANAP. That study looked at the use of highly hazardous pesticides in eight Asian nations, including Cambodia, Sri Lanka, India and China. The PANAP study found that two-thirds of the active ingredients used in pesticides by the 1,300 farmers surveyed had highly hazardous characteristics, and presented what the organization called "unacceptably high risks to communities".

The Danish report calls the use of "highly toxic pesticides one of the most significant hazards" for farmers in low-income countries. And it notes that in many developing countries, the widespread availability of the most hazardous pesticides has turned them into a common method of committing suicide.

Moderate pesticide poisoning can cause muscle cramps, chest pains, blurred vision, vomiting and many other symptoms. Swallowing Class I and II pesticides can be very quickly fatal. When it came to the Cambodian section of PANAP’s study, a third of farmers said they used no protective gear when spraying pesticides. And even among those who did use protective gear, none used a respirator.

Both the PANAP and the Danish studies found that none of the 95 pesticides it assessed carried labels in Khmer, the language of Cambodia, despite a law requiring Khmer labeling. Keam Makarady, an agronomist and pesticides expert at Cambodian agricultural organization CEDAC, says that is typical.

"We can say that 95 percent are labeled in a foreign language. So it is difficult for the farmer to know what kind of pesticide that they use, and also the direction for the safe use of pesticides," Makarady said.

Makarady says CEDAC and other agricultural aid groups train farmers on safer handling of pesticides, and it pays off. He says that typically 80 percent of farmers at the start of a training program use the most dangerous types of pesticides. After training, that number comes down sharply.

"But now [after trainin]) the number of farmers that use the banned and restricted pesticides or highly hazardous pesticides has decreased,” Makarady stated. “Now it’s only 10 percent." Makarady says the problem with pesticides has him so concerned that he buys only organic fruit and vegetables for his family. But buying organic is not an option for most Cambodians, because produce grown without chemical pesticides or fertilizers usually is more expensive.

The Danish team says that if the government enforced its own ban on the worst pesticides, the number of farmers being poisoned would come down. The government says it is working on a new law that will punish people who import banned pesticides.However, there is no set timetable for introducing the legislation on pesticides. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Germany to take back obsolete pesticides

The government and German aid agency GTZ will sign an agreement on Friday for safe repatriation of 74.23 tons of obsolete pesticides that have been stored in over two dozen stores across the country for the last 25 years to Germany. The Ministry of Environment (MoE) and GTZ representatives have agreed to ink the Implementing Agreement after four months of negotiations for the disposal of the pesticides which were imported from Germany for agriculture proposes. The German government has agreed to accept the pesticides in December, 2009, amid rising pressure from several quarters for safe repatriation of hazardous chemicals that have posed a serious threat to public health.

The MoE and the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MoAC) would extend support for accumulation of 74.23 tons of Pesticides Organic Pollutants (POPs) -- Aldrin and Endrin -- as well as 43 cylinders of Methyle Bromide from different stores at Amlekhgunj and GTZ would provide financial support to consign them to Germany.

"Under the agreement, pesticides will be assessed, consolidated at a single store, repackaged and labeled in UN-approved containers before transporting to Germany,” a senior official at MoAC said. The source also said MoAC would provide funds for transporting the pesticides to Amlekhgunj where as MoE would undertake administrative process for clearing tax in import of necessary equipments and materials to be used in for packaging the pesticides. Experts said the cost for complete disposal of a ton of pesticides would hover around US$ 5,000. The pesticides have been stockpiled at 25 different places including Amalekhgunj, Nepalgunj, Gulariya, Surkhet, Khumaltar, Lumle, Pokhara, Biratnagar, Hetauda, Birgunj, Janakpur, Pakhribas and Gaighat.

Most of the pesticides have been kept at government offices located in the vicinity of human settlements there and are posing threats to human health and environment. "We will initiate the process for the disposal and we hope the process will be completed within four to six months,” a source at the MoE said.

The pesticides have to be disposed under temperatures of 1,200-1,500 degrees Celsius at an incinerator plant equipped with Air Pollution Control Devices (APCD) -- a facility not available in Nepal. Nepal has signed the Stockholm Convention and the Rotterdam Convention, which ban the use of certain chemicals and provide for the disposal of these chemicals by producer companies in the source countries. However, most of the companies that supplied the chemicals to Nepal have already closed down.

The POPs Enabling Project has been working to ensure proper management of the chemical stockpile with the assistance of the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). Responding to a Supreme Court order about six months ago, the government expressed its commitment to completing the entire process of disposal within a year.

Indian researchers working on pesticides that use nanoparticles

Indian scientists are working on developing the next generation of pesticides that employ nanoparticles, have potentially reduced toxicity, and can dramatically slash costs and in the next few years challenge the 2,000 crore pesticide market in India.

Researchers at the Kolkata-based Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) have developed techniques to modify the molecular structure of silica, a commonly available compound, to use it as a pesticide. Silica is used in a variety of non-agricultural applications and is considered harmless to humans. To commercialize this technology, the researchers have filed for patents, tied up with a company, and secured funding from the department of biotechnology to improve their process.

Nanoparticles are ordinary elements crushed to a thousandth of the width of a human hair. At those levels, elements show dramatically altered properties—for example, some that conduct electricity become non-conductors—that scientists are now trying to apply to a variety of commercial applications. Silica, in its nanoscopic avatar and used as a pesticide, can fatally drain key lipids out of a pest. "When used this way, the volume of pesticide required to kill a pest dramatically reduces, and this can be easily washed away. When there are no residues, toxicological effects cease to be a problem,” said R.R. Sinha, an official at the department of biotechnology coordinating the project.

Scientists associated with the project say three-year-long tests have shown that pesticides in this form were effective in containing pests such as rice weevils and mustard aphids. Rice is among the biggest consumers of pesticides, followed by cotton, on which studies are yet to be done. The focus of the scientists’ research is to be absolutely sure that nanoparticles are not in any way harmful to humans.

"We have tested particles ranging from 15-60 nanometre in size on several kinds of tissue, including the spleen and liver,” said Arunava Goswami, an associate professor at ISI and the key scientist associated with the project. “However, there are some tests to be done on lung tissue and we also have to study the effects of particles below 15 nanometre to be entirely safe.”

A commercial product, though, is unlikely to hit the market before 2013, primarily because few companies have the facilities to manufacture nanoparticles in quantities above 100kg, said Goswami. "For commercial purposes, you need to manufacture in tonnes, and such facilities don’t exist yet. Also, just like genetically modified crops, there’s likely to be concerns on the health effects of nanoparticles. That’s why we’re trying to address these issues early on,” said Goswami. He added that using nanoparticles would sharply reduce the cost of manufacturing pesticides. "As an example, we need, say, 2,000 units of a pesticide to kill a certain quantity of pests, but with these nanoparticles you need only 125 units to achieve a similar results. That could dramatically cut manufacturing costs,” said Goswami.

Nathan Daniel, a chemical engineer at the University of Delhi, said several international companies were working on nanoparticle-based fertilizers that would significantly change the pesticides market. "Several patents have been filed internationally... It’s something that will be a major game changer,” he said. Studies have suggested that nanoparticles could easily lodge themselves within the body and cause respiratory problems, Mint had reported in January 2008.

In 2006, several German firms were forced to withdraw their cleaning products, all of which claimed to use nanoparticles. Many of these products caused respiratory problems. But a study by the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment found that while these effects were caused by the products, none of them actually contained nanoparticles. 

K. Sridhar, a microbiologist at Mangalore University who has authored a research paper on nanotechnology pollution, said that while some studies have showed that nanoparticles have adverse health effects, most showed they had none.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Pesticide ban call for around India's Kaziranga park

Campaigners say pesticides have killed elephants and other animals in Kaziranga (Photo: Subhamoy Bhattacharjee)
Forestry officials in the north-east Indian state of Assam have demanded the creation of a no-pesticide zone around the famous Kaziranga game sanctuary. The call follows the deaths of two pregnant elephants and other animals in tea estates around Kaziranga. The national park is renowned for its varied wildlife, especially the tiger and the one-horned Indian rhino. Officials say that mammals and birds were killed after eating grass that was contaminated by pesticides. The two elephants ventured out of the park in search of food and ate grass which had been sprayed to kill red ants, officials say.

"The death of these elephants has brought the pesticide issue to the limelight, because the chemicals sprayed in tea estates are playing havoc with wildlife in our forests which are surrounded by hundreds of tea estates," said Anurag Singh, a senior forestry official in northern Assam where Kaziranga is located. The area has the highest concentration of tea estates in India. "The managements of these estates must turn to organic farming and stop spraying chemicals," Mr Singh said. 'Endangering our wildlife' He added that hundreds of birds have died in the same area as has livestock which has eaten pesticide-laced grass in recent weeks.
"The cows died in their dozens and the vultures who fed on them also died in large numbers. So you can imagine the effect on human health when consumers drink these teas," Mr Singh said. He said the forestry department was contemplating the prosecution of some tea estates if animals - especially those that are endangered - are killed by the pesticides. Local community groups also support a pesticide ban.

"The tea estates should go organic and stop spraying random pesticides. They are not only endangering our wildlife and aquatic life but also our people," said Moni Manik Gogoi, who heads a "people's committee" near Kaziranga. Some tea estate owners have also supported the call, especially those who run estates which are fully organic. "Unless we all go organic, our teas will be under a scanner and we will lose lucrative markets where consumers are very health conscious," said Binod Saharia, owner of the Gossainbarie tea estate near Kaziranga. But some planters are wary of losing out if they make the transition.

"The tea industry is so used to chemicals because they represent the easy option when combating plant diseases like halepeltis," said HS Siddhu, a veteran tea planter in Northern Assam. He said the planters should be persuaded rather than being forced to convert to organic farming.

Pesticides become a real danger in Yemen

Stores often sells expired or unapproved pesticides to farmers.
A large quantity of the Yemeni bread Injera (called Lahoh in Yemen) poisoned an entire family and village in Qadas district of the Taiz governorate.

The bread became poisoned when one housewife in al-Ashrooh village of Qadas district prepared it in the early morning of last Saturday. She bakes a large quantity of Lahoh for a lunch meal for her family members at home and sent the remaining for relatives and loved ones in the city of Taiz, said Madean al-Qadasi, founder of Qadas website.

Instead of putting food powder, she added by mistake a pesticide used in the cultivation of qat. “All family members were poisoned and transferred to nearby hospital,” said Al-Qadasi.

When the family discovered that the cause of poisoning is the substance that the woman mistakenly put in the bread, they communicated directly with the driver of the car who supposed to carry the gift of Lahoh to their relatives in Taiz city.  He was on his way, carrying a tightly closed box of Lahoh. The driver was afraid and threw the box out of his car to the side of the road.

A qat farmer spread pesticides on his crop.
A group of children were caring for livestock in that area. They found the closed box on the ground and were happy with the lunch they have assumed they found. They hurried to their mothers and show them their discovery. Their families were happy and distributed this Lahoh for all houses neighbors in their village. Everyone got sick and was transferred to the Hospital. 
“Those are victims of ignorance and deadly poisons became a real danger for our life,” Al-Qadasi said. “It was handled and eaten by our mothers, wives, and children.”

The entire village fell victim to the use of pesticides that fell into the hand of our mothers, wives, and children. Pesticides have become a thorny issue dealt wth by many people, huge seminars, and conferences held raising many questions for what it is, the extent of its deployment, damages, the possibility of its disposal, and who bears the responsibility of it?

The government tried to tackle this serious problem from its onset. Dr. Ali Mohammed Mujawar, the Prime Minister, has declared a savage official war on those traders attempting to bring forbidden, expired, or smuggled pesticides into Yemen in 2008. “We should fight against those unconscientious traders who destroy our food and our generations’ future,” he said.

Pesticides wreck all sorts of havoc on human and animal health in Yemen. About 17,000 Yemeni people are diagnosed with cancer each year. It is often caused by smuggled and banned pesticides used in growing qat, vegetables, and fruits. The consumption of these pesticides is one of the major causes of stomach cancer and renal failure.

Many studies conducted in Yemen warn of the huge and random quantities of illegal pesticides used in growing different plants in the country.

Pesticides have a poisonous result on people. Using such pesticides for long periods can cause serious diseases. About 30 percent of cancer patients have mouth and gum cancer resulting from the use of such pesticides in agriculture. This is one of the highest rates of this type of cancer in the world.

According to the World Health Organization, about 22,000 Yemenis are annually diagnosed with cancer and about 60 percent of this number dies from the disease. This means that 12,000 people afflicted with the disease die every year. Just 25 to 30 percent of those people could be treated, with only 10 to 15 percent of those treated people able to live more than one year, shows the WHO.

“Qat is the great scourge of Yemen,” said Abdulwas’e Ha’el, Chairman of Cancer Center. “Pesticides are the great disaster that stands behind the large increase in the number of cancer patients. It has been developed recently and was traded widely in Yemen, particularly in farms of Qat.” Most agricultural products have become a direct threat to the health of people, because of the serious pesticides, and this constitutes a significant burden on the control efforts.

In a field study, Yemen spent more than YR700 billion to import just two kinds of forbidden pesticides used for growing qat trees during the period of just four years. Pesticides also badly affect the Yemeni economy, according to Dr. Abdul-Rahman Thabet, a professor at Sana’a University. “90 percent of the total imported pesticides in Yemen are used for growing qat,” he added.

A 195 tons of prohibited and illegal pesticides were seized during the first half of 2010, according to Abdullah Al-Sayani, Director of Plant Protection at the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation. “These pesticides have been stopped at the border and accumulated there to be retuned to the countries imported from,” he pointed.

China, Jordon, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates are the most countries that these pesticides were come from, said Al-Sayani. “These poisons turned back to the countries they were produced because they entered the country illegally and some of them are prohibited,” he added.

The Protection of Plant General Directorate in cooperation with custom authority has been able to return back five trucks containing 86 tons of illegal pesticides from al-Hodeidah Port, he indicated.

The ministry of agriculture is carrying out campaigns to reduce importing pesticides to the country as they are dangerous to human health and on environment. “During the first half of this year, the ministry has carried out 11 campaigns to inspect stores selling pesticides in Sana’a, Taiz, Ibb, Hudeidah, Dhamar and Al-Baidha’a,” revealed Al-Sayani.

The results of these campaigns were 61 stores violated pesticides law out of 139 inspected stores in targeted governorates. 4.5 tons of pesticides have been confiscated during the campaign and kept in the ministry’s stores.

101 violation reports have been made and submitted to the prosecution by the Ministry of Agriculture in their war against violators, said Al-Sayani. However, the ministry has granted three new licenses to import pesticides and renewed 14 others to importers in some governorates.

”There are several ways to smuggle these pesticides, so we can’t stop the illegal pesticides from entering Yemen,” admitted Al-Sayani. A specialized team with portable appliances has made 24 field visits to central markets of vegetables, fruits, and qat in a number of governorates to find the effect of pesticides in these products, according to recent report issued by the Ministry of Agriculture.

The results showed that there are different levels of effects of pesticides in these products and differ from one product to another, but qat contains the highest rate of chemicals. A specialized central laboratory launched recently in Sana’a by the Ministry to study more on the effects of pesticides, its type and danger.

Yemen imports nearly 360 tons of legal pesticides formally every year and this figure reduced from 500 tons in 2006, said al-Sayani. “Yemen is still among the countries which imports limited quantities of pesticides for agricultural production.” He argued that to improve the production, “the country still needs between 1500-2000 tons every year.” 373 types of prohibited pesticides in Yemen and there are 700 kinds of chemicals smuggled illegally, toxic items and pesticides used in agriculture and used for production of qat, media report said.

 “There is no health guarantee when they use pesticides,” said Agriculture engineer Rashad Abdulmalik.  It is a scientific fact agreed upon by experts that the misuse of pesticides is a possibility as a result of ignorance on how to handling it or as a result of negligence from a large proportion of farmers in the country that do not know how to use it.

Awareness represents the main strategy to end these deadly problem, said Abdulraqeeb moqbel, Agriculture engineer.  “The reason of spread these pesticides is the ignorance of farmers accompanied with greed that lead to diseasters,” he added. The concerned authorities must play a big role in raising awareness of the danger of these poisons that kills many humans, he advises. “The traders do not care about people’s health, but they just care about sale and profit.”

Ahmed is one of payers of pesticides said that he received hundred of people who wants to pay them. “It became like any good sale it in the market if you want. Every smuggled pesticide is more powerful and makes the qat planet grow quickly,” he said. The agriculture inspectors just need bribes to make their eyes blind.

Geting rid of pesticides is impossible in a country like Yemen that lacks many of the possibilities and means of enhancing the possibility of disposal. The best way to get rid of pesticides serious backlog is through burning them under high temperature, according to the FAO. The problem is serious and fatal danger and to end it, there must be strong official and popular efforts.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Cocktail of pesticides, medicines

Pesticides and other agro-chemicals stored in a shed near a farming house-hold at Pampadumpara in Idukki district. Photo: Roy Mathew

Cardamom cultivators in Idukki district not only use a cocktail of pesticides but also apply allopathic medicines and even liquor to the cardamom plants. Enquiries show that steroids like wysolone, antibiotics, vitamin B, aspirin and even rum are in common use along with pesticides. The farmers believe that they would check pests, aid growth and even spur flowering of the plants. A worker employed in spraying said that two millilitres of rum is added to every litre of pesticides besides other ingredients. Some farmers even use concoction of decomposing meat, eggs and other substances.

Principal Agriculture Officer of Idukki K. K. Chandran said that though allopathic medicines like steroids would initially boost growth and yield, they would damage the plant in the long run. However, the prices of cardamom have shot up in recent month and the farmers are willing to do anything to improve their yields and the quality of the pods. The persistent organic pollutant endosulfan is used in most plantations despite a ban in the State. Apart from checking a broad spectrum of pests, farmers believe that it promotes flowering.

Endosulfan is smuggled from Tamil Nadu under different names. Batches of workers from Tamil Nadu carry endosulfan with them while travelling daily by bus or jeep to Idukki district. About 1000 jeeps are plying to Kerala daily and if each of them brings in ten litres a day, they stand to gain Rs. 1000 a day per vehicle because of price differences for endosulfan in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, notes Thomas Jose, Secretary of Red Cross unit at Udumbanchola.

Professor M. Murugan notes that broad spectrum insecticides used in cardamom and tea plantations kill as many as 80 insects besides several beneficial creatures such as honey bees and ants. The chemicals used in plantations included chlorpyrifos, furadan, phorate, lambda-cyhalothrin and cypermethrin. Resides of hexaconazole (fungicide) and endosulfan had been detected in cardamom, and DDT and its metabolates, phorates and methyl mercury in the soil in the plantations. The mercurial compounds come from a fungicide banned in Japan two decades ago. The plantations also use highly volatile and carcinogenic nitrobenzene to induce flowering.

The main reason for over use and irrational use of pesticides by the plantations were the consultants employed by them who recommend chemical treatment in liaison with manufacturers of agro-chemicals. Hardly ten per cent of the planters went by advice of the Agriculture Department, Spices Board or the Kerala Agriculture University.

When certain pesticides are combined, their effects get amplified because of synergic effect. About ten persons from Kailasappara in the district were hospitalised recently following poisoning while mixing pesticides and fungicides. Similar incidents have happened in the past also.

Pesticide shops dot small towns such as Thopramkudi in Idukki district. The pesticides are used mainly for vegetable cultivation there besides cardamom. Bitter gourd and other vegetables produced here reach even Chalai market of Thiruvananthapuram with an overdose of pesticides.

The easy availability of pesticides makes it the favoured route for those committing suicides. It also causes an increase in suicides as the means to commit suicide is available in almost all households. K. Anil Pradeep, St. John’s Hospital, Kattappana, said that his hospital had received 61 pesticide poisoning cases in 2010 (up to November). Of them, about 50 cases was the result of suicide attempts. Another hospital at Thookupalam was receiving a higher number of cases.

China Launches Crackdown on Fake Seeds, Pesticide

China's Ministry of Public Security has launched a three-month campaign to crack down on the manufacturing and selling of fraudulent seeds, pesticide and fertilizers.

"Seeds, pesticide and fertilizers are the basic materials for farmers' work. Fake farm products not only result in the reduction of output or even crop failure, but also are likely to cause environmental pollution," Vice Minister Liu Jinguo said Friday at a meeting. 

Prior to the campaign, police across the country had already solved 38 cases of manufacturing and selling fake seeds, pesticide and fertilizers, which involved about 15 million yuan (2.2 million U.S. dollars), figures from the ministry show. 

However, Liu noted that the situation was still grave as huge profits lured more people to commit such crimes and farmers usually were not aware of protecting their own rights. Further, Liu urged the country's police to spare no effort in dealing with every case, regardless of how much money is involved, and protect farmers' rights "as best as they can." 

The move is part of a national campaign to crack down on the violation of intellectual property rights (IPRs) and the production and distribution of fraudulent and shoddy products. The campaign started in November last year.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

SC hospital locked down after pesticide exposure

CAMDEN, S.C. (AP) — Authorities say several hunters were sickened and four dogs died after coming in contact with pesticide in woods in Lee County.

Kershaw Health Medical Center spokeswoman Judy Ferrell told reporters the Camden hospital was briefly put on lockdown after the four of the hunters came into the hospital Thursday afternoon, but there was no danger to anyone else in the building. Authorities say the hunters became concerned after four of their dogs died after rolling in and eating the substance.

Investigators say exposure to the pesticide known as Temik can cause weakness, blurred vision, headache, nausea, sweating, and tremors. The Department of Natural Resources has blocked off the area and is trying to figure out how the pesticide got there.