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'Merely a proposal': Centre to Supreme Court on lifting pesticide ban

Registration committee is a technical statutory body that evaluates the efficacy and safety of insecticides under the specified conditions for use in the country


Bhavini MishraSanjeeb Mukherjee New Delhi

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The government has told the Supreme Court in its affidavit that the proposal to lift the ban on 24 of 27 pesticides through its February draft gazette notification was "merely a proposal and has not attained finality”. 

“To follow the due procedure, the draft notification was published on February 15 to seek objections and suggestions from all stakeholders concerned (including the petitioners) within 30 days. The objections and suggestions that have been received from the stakeholders on the draft notification will be reviewed by the central government in consultation with the registration committee (RC), considering all aspects related to technical and scientific requirements, substitutes available, farmer's interest, safety of the pesticides, toxicity and efficacy concerns, updated status of required study and submission of data in compliance to recommendations of the various expert committees, etc., and a final decision will be taken accordingly,” the Centre submitted.

Registration committee is a technical statutory body that evaluates the efficacy and safety of insecticides under the specified conditions for use in the country. 

The controversy dates back to a May 2020 order of the government banning import, manufacture, sale, transport, distribution and use of 27 pesticides that were considered harmful to public health and safety. These 27 pesticides were widely used as part of the 66 contentious pesticides that were being reviewed by various bodies for several years for their toxicity. Some reports said the banned pesticides included 12 insecticides, eight fungicides and seven herbicides, comprising almost 130 formulations.

Although the government reportedly gave the industry time to record their objections, the issue was not resolved. At the request of several major industry bodies, a panel was formed under the chairmanship of TP Rajendran, former assistant director general of Indian Council of Agriculture Research, and a well-known expert in the field. Though the results of this committee’s findings were not made public, reports suggested that it had recommended retaining the ban on three of the 27 pesticides and freeing the rest.

There is some confusion on the contents of the findings and terms of reference of the committee itself, since civil society activists in their petition to the SC said they weren’t aware of the findings, terms of reference and the process it followed to reach the conclusion. The Rajendran panel report, however, is available, industry players said.

Thereafter, the government modified the original ban order and issued a fresh draft in February 2023, retaining the ban on only three of the pesticides while freeing all others. Civil society groups approached the SC questioning the revised order.

The Supreme Court on Friday said the matter will be taken up after the summer vacation. 

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First Published: Apr 28 2023 | 9:11 PM IST

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