The scourge of pesticides.
I confronted the issue of pesticides when I started campaigning against GM crops. By 2006 I was full fledged into the campaign and came to know the full extent of pesticide use. It was very shocking when farmers started sharing their experiences with me.
A farmer friend who now runs an NGO promoting safe and nutritious food told me how he and his family members fell seriously sick and this motivated him to go organic and start a movement. I met many farmers who grew their own food organically in separate plots as they were alarmed by the toxic impacts of pesticides they were spraying in regular fields.
A reputed agricultural university of my state used to invite me to their internal discussions. In such sessions I often heard senior professors lament how they were motivated to modify farmers behaviour and introduce pesticides. "Farmers of Odisha were highly skilled in agricultural practices and resisted the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. It was only in the 90's that we could make some inroads. We engaged people to secretly propagate nitrate fertilizers in the fields of farmers. As the yields grew farmers slowly became interested. The health of crops became affected by these fertilizers and the pest attacks became more frequent. They were then forced to use pesticides as well. Earlier we used to move fearlessly in their fields but today the pungent smell of deadly pesticides in their fields makes our job very difficult and precarious. We wonder whether we have done any good with our efforts." (I now have permission to add that he was then Dean, Extension Education. Thank you Sir.)
Today cancer cases in farmers and rural families have skyrocketed and so have cases of birth defects, neurological disorders and insanity. The farmers are not aware about safety issues concerning pesticides. They spray without protective gear. They use the empty pesticide containers to store water and also grocery items. Their children play in recently sprayed fields and their family members work in them. Today there is a huge cry for cancer hospitals as the number of cases have become unmanageable.
I once posed as a customer in one of these shops to know whether illegal pesticides are being used. When I asked for such a brand the shopkeeper wanted to know why. I said I wanted to kill rats in my field. The person manning the counter laughed. "Rats? These poisons are potent enough to kill oxen!". When I asked him whether he felt it safe to work in the shop he shrugged and said, "This shop belongs to my elder brother. As he falls sick often I manage the shop when he is too ill to function."
Do we even need these pesticides? No. A healthy and diverse crop grown without chemical fertilizers and pesticides will attract very little pests. Pests attack unhealthy plants to eat away the spoiled portions. The more the chemical inputs the more unhealthy the produce and the pest attacks increase exponentially. Just as we notice in human health. The more the medicines used the sicker the persons. In organically grown crop a few organic pest control preparations and some non pesticidal pest control methods are more than enough.
We are poisoning ourselves and our food simply because multinational giants can sell their produce, make us sick, and then sell their drugs to us to manage those illnesses. We are fools to have fallen for that trap.