Cotton production in the country is heavily associated with the intensive use of hazardous pesticides. About 10 million cotton growers and farm labourers are working in a highly unsafe occupational environment where protective measures and equipment for safe handling are far from being adopted, said a study conducted jointly by two UK-based organisations—Environmental Justice Foundation and Pesticide Action Network.
The causes of India’s low yields are highly complex, but contemporary farming practices undoubtedly play a major role, said the study.
“Traditional methods of pest control, such as manual removal of pests, intercropping, crop rotation and burning or removal of cotton residues from the soil have been largely abandoned and high-yielding crop varieties which are significantly more susceptible to plant pests and diseases have been introduced,” it said. The study: The Deadly Chemicals in Cotton deals with pesticide hazards in West Africa, India and Uzbekistan in special chapters.
The emphasis on India is significant from the introductory remarks of the study. The study said in an attempt to limit the damage caused by pest infestations, Indian cotton growers now apply an estimated $344 million of chemical pesticides annually, out of which $235 million is spent for trying to control bollworm alone. The study lists a number of hazardous pesticides like organophosphorous compound, monocrotophos which account for 22% of the entire cotton insecticides market in India. Other hazardous pesticides in use are quinalphos, fenvalerate, chlorpyrifos, dimethoate and imidacloprid.