The special task force in Maharashtra to tackle agrarian crisis Vasantrao Naik Sheti Swavlamban Mission (VNSSM) chairman Kishor Tiwari on Monday blamed the Swiss agrochemicals company Syngenta, Germany’s Bayer and Bayer-owned Monsanto for recent deaths of farmers due to pesticide exposure to the cotton belt of Yavatmal. In a statement issued here, he said that they have been accused of distributing dangerous pesticides without sufficient safety information and violating guidelines and conditions by the Central Insecticides Board and Registration Committee (CIBRC), government of India, and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management. “In Maharashtra, Monsanto is indirectly involved in distributing BG-III herbicide resistant GM cotton seeds and then Syngenta and Bayer distributing dangerous pesticides without guaranteeing safe user conditions and knowingly expose farmers to major health risks, resulting in the deaths of poor farmers and farm workers, ” Tiwari said in the statement.
According to the VNSSM survey, many farmers are suffering from the health effects of uninformed, unprotected pesticide application to crops including nausea, rashes and eye irritation, Syngenta and Bayer products – Nativo (Bayer), Confidor (Bayer), Regent (Bayer), Larvin (Bayer), Gramoxone (Syngenta), and Matador (Syngenta) – are commonly known as highly toxic and unsafe, and needs to be banned with immediate effect, said Tiwari.
Farmers dying from pesticide exposure in Maharashtra’s cotton belt in Yavatmal have made it evident that the government’s efforts to regulate toxic chemicals used in agriculture have miserably failed, he said. “It is natural for cotton growers under pressure to protect their investments to rely on greater volumes of insecticides in the face of severe pest attacks. It appears many of them have suffered high-levels of exposure to the poisons, leading to their death. The fact that they had to rely mainly on the advice of unscrupulous agents and commercial outlets of pesticides, rather than agricultural extension officers, shows gross irresponsibility on the part of the government,” he said.
“But the problem runs deeper. The system of regulation of insecticides in India is obsolete, and even the feeble efforts at reform initiated by the government have fallen by the wayside. A new Pesticides Management Bill, introduced in 2008, was studied by the Parliamentary Standing Committee, but it is still pending,” Tiwari added. Earlier, Tiwari had urged criminal action against the pesticide manufacturers and corrupt government officials involved in the deaths of the farmers. He has also demanded an immediate ban on chemical farming in India since the country’s farmers are not able to comprehend the toxicity of pesticides. “Retailers are not honest enough to act responsibly and, it seems, government officials are not properly trained or given sufficient resources to carry out their duties to regulate the trade,” he said.