- The term pesticide covers compounds including insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, rodenticides, molluscicides, nematicides, plant growth regulators and others.
Benefits of pesticides
- Improving productivity: Food grain production has increased almost fourfold from an estimated 169 million hectares of permanently cropped land.
- Protection of crop losses/yield reduction: Weeds reduce yield of dry land crops by 37–79%. Herbicides provided both an economic and labour benefit.
- Vector disease control: Insecticides are often the only practical way to control the insects that spread deadly diseases such as malaria.
- Quality of food: A diet containing fresh fruit and vegetables far outweigh potential risks from eating very low residues of pesticides in crops. Eating fruit and vegetables regularly reduces the risk of many cancers, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and other chronic diseases.
- Other areas: The transport sector makes extensive use of pesticides, particularly herbicides. Herbicides and insecticides are used to maintain the turf on sports pitches, cricket grounds and golf courses. Insecticides protect buildings and other wooden structures from damage by termites and wood-boring insects.
Hazards of Pesticides
- There is now overwhelming evidence that some of these chemicals do pose a potential risk to humans and other life forms and unwanted side effects to the environment
- Direct impact on human
- The high risk groups exposed to pesticides include production workers, formulators, sprayers, mixers, loaders and agricultural farm workers.
- During manufacture and formulation, the possibility of hazards may be higher because the processes involved are not risk free.
- OC compounds could pollute the tissues of virtually every life form on the earth, the air, the lakes and the oceans, the fishes that live in them and the birds that feed on the fishes.
- Low-dose exposure to certain environmental chemicals, including pesticides termed as endocrine disruptors are linked to human health effects such as immune suppression, hormone disruption, diminished intelligence, reproductive abnormalities and cancer.
- Impact through food commodities
- In India the first report of poisoning due to pesticides was from Kerala in 1958, where over 100 people died after consuming wheat flour contaminated with parathion (Karunakaran, 1958).
- Impact on environment
- Pesticides can contaminate soil, water, turf, and other vegetation.
- In addition to killing insects or weeds, pesticides can be toxic to a host of other organisms including birds, fish, beneficial insects, and non-target plants.
- Insecticides are generally the most acutely toxic class of pesticides, but herbicides can also pose risks to non-target organisms.
- Pesticide sprays can directly hit non-target vegetation, or can drift or volatilize from the treated area and contaminate air, soil, and non-target plants.
- Effect on soil fertility
- Heavy treatment of soil with pesticides can cause populations of beneficial soil microorganisms to decline.
- If we lose both bacteria and fungi, then the soil degrades.
- Overuse of chemical fertilizers and pesticides have effects on the soil organisms that are similar to human overuse of antibiotics.
Challenges in banning the pesticides
- Food security can be adversely impacted with reduction in productivity.
- There is pressure from the fertilizer industry that the government is unable to take a decision to ban the entire 66 pesticides.
- The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare is implementing a program for “Monitoring of Pesticide Residues at National Level” (MPRNL) under which samples of agriculture commodities are collected and analyzed for the presence of pesticide residues.
- Central Integrated Pest Management Centres (CIPMCs) under the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare conduct Farmers Field Schools to sensitize farmers regarding safe and judicious use of pesticides, use of bio-pesticides etc.
- A ‘Grow Safe Food’ campaign has also been initiated carrying the message of safe and judicious use of pesticides to farmers and other stakeholders.
- Under Soil Health Management Scheme, financial assistance is provided to States for imparting training and demonstration to farmers on balanced use of fertilizers.
- The Government is encouraging establishment of Bio-fertilizer units by providing financial assistance to State Governments.
- Our efforts should include investigations of outbreaks and accidental exposure to pesticides, correlation studies, cohort analyses, prospective studies and randomised trials of intervention procedures.
- Valuable information can be collected by monitoring the end product of human exposure in the form of residue levels in body fluids and tissues of the general population.
- Education and training of workers is a major vehicle to ensure a safe use of pesticides.
About Belize reef
- Stretching from the tip of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula all the way to Guatemala and Honduras, the reef includes 380 km in the waters off Belize, the portion covered by World Heritage status
- It is the second largest after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
- It spans 96,000 hectares (237,220 acres) and is home to one of the largest ecosystems in the Atlantic.
- Belize’s waters are a haven for 1,400 kinds of plants and animals, including rare marine turtles, rays, bonnethead sharks and dolphins.
- More than half of the country’s population, around 190,000 people, are supported by incomes generated through tourism and fisheries directly dependent on the reef.
- The site also encompassed mangroves that help protect the reef and serve as a breeding ground for many of the hundreds of fish species that inhabit the area
Threats to Mesoamerican reefs
As part of the larger Mesoamerican coral reef, The Belize Barrier Reef is facing many of the same health problems as other reefs in the world.
- The rising water temperatures brought about by El Niño type events have triggered massive coral bleaching.
- As a result there has been a 80% reduction in live coral cover on some portions of the reef over the last two decades.
- With 240 miles (386 km) of coastline to the east of Belize, their biggest tourist attractions are the islands and the incredible array of dive and snorkeling sites surrounding them.
- Of the entire Mesoamerican reef, the central Belize Barrier Reef has suffered the most.
- Illegal fishing practices such as Jamaican traps have decimated the population of parrotfish, juvenile fish, and other non-edible species.
- While this type of fishing is illegal, the central reef area is not patrolled effectively.
- As part of the Hurricane belt, Belize is vulnerable to a constant threat of serious storms which seem to be becoming more frequent and intense due to climate change.
- The continued destruction of the reef by hurricane means there’s no buffer for tidal waves, and coastal erosion becomes an issue affecting mangrove forests—a necessary part of overall coral reef health.
Distinction between OBCs and SCs
- The yardsticks for recognising specific castes as SC and OBC are distinct.
- While extreme social, educational and economic backwardness are common qualifications for both groups, SCs draw such backwardness from untouchability.
- For OBCs, apart from social, educational and economic backwardness, lack of adequate representation in government posts and services is a criterion.
- The positive rights guaranteed under the Constitution to SCs are to correct the historical wrongs of untouchability, and critics argue that addition of other castes in the group dilutes that guarantee.
- The name ‘Scheduled Caste’ derives from the fact that this is annexed as a Schedule to the Constitution.
- The Constitution of India provides certain privileges/concessions to the members of Scheduled Castes which are notified under the provisions of Article 341 of the Constitution.
- The first list of Scheduled Castes in relation to a State or Union Territory is to be issued by a notified Order of the President after having consultation with the State Government concerned.
- Any subsequent inclusion in or exclusion from the list of Scheduled Castes can be effected through an Act of Parliament as envisaged under clause (2) of Article 341.
- Process: The State governments first propose to modify the Schedule. Only proposals agreed by both the Registrar General of India and the National Commission for Scheduled Castes are introduced as a Bill in Parliament. This procedure was adopted by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in 1999 and was amended in 2002.
- A similar provision exists for Scheduled Tribes under Article 342.
- These 17 castes are socially most backward, and many survive on small occupations in rural areas. For example, Nishads earn from fishing and Kumhars from making earthen pots.
- According to an estimate by the UP Backward Classes Welfare Department, these 17 castes make up around 15% of the state’s population. A caste in the SC list gets more government benefits than one in the OBC list.
- Also, since the OBC population is large, there is close competition among OBC groups for reservation benefits. If these 17 castes are moved to the list of SCs, it will leave greater space in the OBC quota for the remaining OBC caste groups.
- However, SC groups fear that such a move might impact their quota as the new entrants will consume their share if the reservation limit is not expanded.