A new report released recently has revealed shocking reality of paraquat dichloride retailing in India. This report presents kind of practices being pursued in selling paraquat dichloride, a toxic herbicide (weedicide), in India. Data collected from the State of West Bengal shows that practices are casual and basic, violating Indian national laws as well as the International Code of Conduct on Pesticides Management.
Paraquat – a dangerous herbicide: In the regulatory regime of pesticides, both nationally and globally, the hazardous herbicide paraquat dichloride has been in focus for long years. It is a widely used non selective, broad spectrum herbicide and a powerful desiccant.
World Health Organisation categorised paraquat as a moderately hazardous (Class II) pesticide. The Integrated Risk Information system (IRIS) of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) has classified paraquat as a probable human carcinogen (Class III) chemical. According to Pesticide Action Network (PAN) International paraquat is a highly hazardous pesticide. Paraquat is also regarded as a PAN bad actor and one among a dirty dozen pesticides.
Paraquat is known to injure farmers, agriculture workers as well as plantation workers and community members due to occupational and accidental exposure. Acute poisoning may occur due to mild exposure but symptoms are often delayed, though the outcome can be fatal due to respiratory failure. Long term exposure to paraquat is linked to chronic bronchitis and increased incidence of Parkinson’s disease.
Paraquat is banned or its use has been disallowed in at least 44 countries, include members of European Union. It is banned in the home country of its main produces since 1989 due to its high acute toxicity for humans. Kerala, a South Indian State has been banned use of this toxic weedicide since 2011.
In the light of such realities, PAN India has undertaken a national study in 2015 to document the use of paraquat in India and published a report Conditions of Paraquat Use in India. This study revealed the unacceptable practices of paraquat use and retail. Data collected across six States in India revealed that,
paraquat is sold in plastic carry bags, labels are illegible, users mix it with other ingredients, contrary to recommended use, users apply it with leaking knapsack sprayers, many use it on crops that it is not approved for, personal protective equipment is nearly non-existent.
After publishing Conditions of Paraquat Use in India, a follow up study was undertaken in 2016 to document the practices of paraquat retail in India, and a report has been published. This report fathoms some of the practices in selling paraquat dichloride, a toxic chemical, in India.
Data collected from State of West Bengal shows that practices are casual and basic, with illegal and unacceptable practices. Both reports have shown that paraquat retail and use violates Indian national laws as well as the International Code of Conduct on Pesticides Management.
New Report on Paraquat Retailing in India
This study has noted a range of issues with regard to the retailing of paraquat dichloride in West Bengal. It ranges from selling products not authorised by the manufacturers, absence of mandatory labelling on certain products, recommendations for the use of paraquat on crops not included in the CIB&RC directive, inadequate information on PPE on the label, PPE not given or sold at the retail points and farmers not advised of its requirement, to decanting and selling in refill or empty bottles and plastic carry bags, without labels or instruction leaflets.
Additionally, label information is not provided in the local language and there were wide variations in the cost of various brands, raising concerns about quality. Retail sale of paraquat and related practices noted in West Bengal are in violation of the Indian Insecticides Act and Rules as well as the International Code of Conduct on Pesticides Management.
Central Insecticides Board and Registration Committee, the Central and State Agriculture Departments, manufacturers and retailers are responsible for enforcement of rules. However, these violations indicate lack of stringent regulation as well as monitoring and gross failure of the current regulatory mechanisms.
Illegal practices illustrated in the report reveal gross failure of the Indian pesticide regulatory system to rein in sellers and buyers. In a scenario of lax regulatory system and totally ignorant users, this report recommends immediate ban on the production, import, sale and use of paraquat dichloride in India, and adoption of non-chemical methods of weed management and agro-ecology.
By Pesticide Action Network (PAN) India
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