Pesticide Use Must Be Controlled : Daily Current Affairs

Date: 01/10/2022

Relevance: GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Relevance: GS-3: Environmental pollution and degradation

Key Phrases: Pesticides, Types of pesticides, Impact of Pesticides, Crop Care Federation of India (CCFI), APEDA (Agriculture and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority) ,Integrated Pest Management (IPM) , Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices(CACP), Insecticides Act, 1968.


  • Recently, Punjab and Haryana governments banned 10 pesticides considering the various deleterious impacts of pesticides.
  • The Crop Care Federation of India (CCFI) has criticized the move terming it illogical.

What are pesticides?

  • According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), a pesticide is any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying or controlling any pest including vectors of human or animal disease, unwanted species of plants or animals causing harm during or otherwise interfering with the production, processing, storage, transport, or marketing of food, agricultural commodities, wood and wood products or animal feedstuffs, or substances that may be administered to animals for the control of insects, arachnids, or other pests in or on their bodies.
  • Types of Pesticides:
    • The pesticides are classified according to the types of pests which they kill
      • Insecticides – kill insects
      • Herbicides – kill plants
      • Rodenticides – kill rodents (rats & mice)
      • Bactericides – kill bacteria
      • Fungicides – kill fungi
      • Larvicides –kill larvae
  • Based on the mechanism of degradation in the environment they are classified as
    • Biodegradable: They can be broken down by microbes and other living beings into harmless compounds.
    • Persistent: They may take months or years to break down and are generally not degraded by biological agents.
  • Use of Pesticides in India
    • Insecticides, fungicides and herbicides are used in India, with insecticides forming the highest share.
      • As of October, 2019, a total of 292 pesticides were registered in India.
    • According to a report by database Research and Markets, the Indian pesticides market was worth Rs 197 billion in 2018.
      • The market is further projected to reach a value of Rs 316 billion by 2024.
    • Total pesticide consumption is the highest in Maharashtra, followed by Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana.
    • On the other hand, per hectare consumption of pesticides was the highest in Punjab (0.74 kg), followed by Haryana (0.62 kg) and Maharashtra (0.57 kg) during 2016-17.

The beginning of the pesticides in India

  • The Green Revolution during the mid-60s led to the use of yield-increasing inputs such as High Yield Variety (HYV) seeds, chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
  • This significantly contributed to the increase in production of food grains from 52 million tonnes (mt) in 1951-52 to 309 mt in 2020-21.
    • The production of horticultural crops increased from 97 mt in 1991-92 to 331 mt in 2020-21.
  • The intensive agriculture practiced over the years has invited unwanted pests and diseases into the agriculture and to control the pest ravages farmers started applying pesticides in the 1960s and 1970s.
  • The post-1970s witnessed a substantial increase in the use of pesticides due to a variety of reasons.
    • The total use of pesticides increased to 62,180 tonnes in 2017-18 which was only 14,630 tonnes in 1965-66.
    • In the same duration per hectare consumption of pesticides has increased close to four times, from 94 grams to 315 grams.
    • The increased use of pesticides in crops attracted a lot of criticism from the environmentalists because it reduces biodiversity, aggravates the problems of soil, water and air pollution.

Issues Related to Pesticides in India

  • Harmful Effects on Farmers: Chronic low-level pesticide exposure is associated with headache, fatigue, dizziness, impaired memory, Parkinson's disease, and Alzheimer's disease.
  • Harmful Effect on Consumers: Pesticides go up the food chain and are eaten by aquatic animals or plants and ultimately humans through Bio magnification.
  • Harmful Effect on Agriculture: Use of pesticides for decades has contributed to the current ecological, economic and existential crisis of the Indian agriculture sector.
  • Regulatory Issues: Agriculture is a state subject but production, education and research of pesticides are governed under the Insecticides Act, 1968 which is a central Act and states don't have any role in it.
    • This regulatory lacuna has led to an estimated 104 pesticides that are still produced/ used in India which have been banned in two or more countries in the world.

Increase in cultivation costs

  • To reduce use of pesticides, the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programme was introduced in 1992 which combines the use of biological, cultural and chemical practices to control insect pests in agricultural production.
  • There is a high emphasis on developing pest and disease-resistant varieties to reduce the use of synthetic pesticides but despite all the efforts cultivation costs have increased.
  • The cost of cultivation survey data by CACP shows that
    • In Punjab per hectare cost of pesticides application has increased from ₹262 in 1990-91 to ₹5,624 in 2019-20
    • Also in the same duration the cost increased from ₹154 to ₹4,278 in Andhra Pradesh.
    • Similarly cotton’s cultivation cost increased from ₹680 to ₹5,082 in Gujarat and from ₹757 to ₹7,360 in Andhra Pradesh and in other states as well.
  • Cotton crop is the largest consumer of pesticides in India and it consumes about 36-50% of total pesticides while the area under cotton is about 5% of total area.
    • Bt cotton which was introduced to reduce use of pesticides has cultivated on large areas and increased pesticide consumption.

Future should be focused on striking the balance

  • The Father of the Green Revolution and Nobel Laureate, Norman Borlaug underlined that a complete ban on pesticide would result in a 50 per cent reduction in the world’s production of crops, which may increase food prices 4-5 times.
  • Estimates suggest that in absence of pesticides about 80 percent of cotton production losses would be there worldwide.
    • Although the APEDA had recommended banning the 10 pesticides in Punjab and Haryana to meet the Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs) set by the EU for exporting rice.
    • There are several consequences of pesticides but complete ban may pose food security challenges so there should be a balanced approach to it.

Way forward

  • An increase in pesticide consumption will increase the burden on farmers and damage the environment.
  • With the increased use of toxic pesticides, snakes, snails, earthworms, etc., are fast vanishing from the farms, all of which are an essential part of the farming ecosystem.
  • Serious initiatives are needed to control the consumption of pesticides without harming productivity and concerted efforts are needed to increase the area under organic farming and zero-budget farming.
  • By reducing the area under paddy and cotton, the consumption of pesticides can also be reduced considerably as these two crops together consume about 65 per cent of pesticides in India.


  • Pesticides have become an integral part of modern agriculture and complete eradication or ban is not justified given the food security consequences.
  • The need of the hour is to encourage farmers to adopt fewer pesticides and Organic farming, Zero Budget Natural farming etc.
    • At the same time, the ban should be imposed on attractive advertisements on pesticides influencing the farmers to increase their use.
    • Also, given the changing environment, pesticide manufacturers should also change their production system from toxic to environment-friendly pesticides.

Source: The Hindu BL

Mains Question:

Q. The excessive usage of pesticides in India has adversely affected human health, soil health and led to increased cultivation costs, Discuss. Is it possible to reduce paddy and cotton acreage to curb pesticide use? Give suitable arguments with examples. (250 words).