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Civil society, pesticide industry present contrasting picture on ban order

The Supreme Court also asked the government to place on record two reports on the use of harmful chemicals and pesticides in India

Supreme Court

Supreme Court

Sanjeeb Mukherjee New Delhi

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The imbroglio over the ban on 27 hazardous pesticides done a few years back has entangled further with a section of the industry questioning the ground on which a known-hazardous pesticide monocrotophos was excluded from the ban, and the civil society questioning the ground on which the original order was reversed in the first place.

The Supreme Court (SC) in its last order a few weeks back also asked the Central government to explain the reason behind retaining the ban on just three pesticides while letting off the others out of the 27 originally banned.

A Bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) D Y Chandrachud sought the government’s response in four weeks.

The court also asked the government to place on record two reports on the use of harmful chemicals and pesticides in India.

“The Union government shall place on record the final report of the Dr S K Khurana Sub-Committee (referred to in paragraph 10 of the status report) and the report dated September 6, 2022 of the committee chaired by Dr T P Rajendran (referred to in paragraph 11 of the status report),” the court said.

The whole matter refers to a May 2020 order by the government banning 27 hazardous pesticides that were considered endangered to public health and safety.

Thereafter, under the recommendation of a section of the industry, a high-powered panel was constituted by the government to understand all aspects of the ban.

The panel, it is believed, recommended retaining the ban on three of the 27 pesticides and freeing the remaining ones.

However, civil society activists in their petition to the Court said that the constitution of such a committee is not available in the public domain.

Thereafter, Centre modified the ban order and retained it for only three of the pesticides originally banned while freeing all others from the same.

Kavitha Kuruganthi, a petitioner in the case and convener of the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture, in a letter questioning the relaxation, demanded a total ban on all 27 pesticides as originally envisaged.

She, in the letter, said that 21 of these 27 pesticides are classified as “Highly Hazardous Pesticides”, while 17 of them are deemed to be registered, which means that they were in use when Insecticides Act 1968 came into force and these DRPs have actually not been proven to be safe by any ex-ante risk assessment. Three of these pesticides are WHO Class Ib pesticides and 13 are Class II pesticides in terms of their acute toxicity.

On the other hand, a section of the pesticides industry, while demanding the lifting of the ban totally, has questioned the relaxation given to one pesticide, which it said was a known harmful chemical but still hasn’t been included in the ban list.

They also questioned the panel on whose recommendation the relaxation was granted.

It also alleged that the companies that banned products in the February 2023 order were not given adequate hearing of their case.

"Monocrotophos is highly toxic by all routes of exposure. It is classified as a highly hazardous pesticide according to WHO. ACFI is not in favor of using this pesticide," Kalyan Goswami, Director General of Agro Chem Federation told BS hinting at the haphazard manner in which the pesticides ban issue has been handled.

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First Published: Apr 17 2023 | 9:05 AM IST

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