In India, a lot of misinformation or myths are being propagated on crop protection chemicals and a narrative based on misinformation is being pushed to harm India’s food security and farmers’ interests, was the conclusion of a seminar organized by the industry body of crop protection chemicals producers – Agro Chem Federation of India (ACFI) in New Delhi.
An all female panel comprising of scientist, lawyer, expert on regulatory framework, civil society member, journalists and columnist, along with industry body members debated on various myths related to crop protection chemicals and agreed on educating the stakeholders, especially the farmers and urban intelligentsia and invest in research & development to improve the crop yield to ensure food security in India.
Quoting Swami Vivekananda, Dr. Kalyan Goswami, Director General of ACFI, said that the truth remains the truth even if you speak in different ways, so is a lie remains a lie even it is spoken in different forms and forums. “As an industry, we are here to protect the plant and millions of life from hunger and associated risks,” emphasized Dr. Goswami.
Initiating the discussion, Dr. Deepa Batra Kathuria, Regulatory Head – FMC India busted a number of myths against the use of crop protection chemicals through the use of facts in her presentation. “The industry is being blamed for myths like usage of pesticides in large quantity, reducing crop yield, rising number of cancer cases etc, whereas the facts are otherwise. For example, India’s grain production is increasing every year, in terms of cancer cases even a non-agriculture country like Singapore has more percentage of cases than India. Similarly, India uses just a one third quantity of crop protection chemicals per hectare in comparison of China. ”
Presenting judicial view of the industry, Mamta Rani Jha, Senior Partner, Head – Litigation & Opposition, Inttl Advocate was of the view that as a country we cannot survive without crop protection chemicals because the pests can reduce the crop yield from about 30 per cent to more than 70%. “In such a situation, our food security and goal of hunger free society will be in jeopardy.”
Representing the civil society in the panel and drawing upon her field experience, Sonali Patnaik, Director, Arupa Mission Research Foundation, highlighted the issues of excess use of chemicals by farmers or laborers on the want of knowledge and lack of safety kits when laborers sprinkle the chemicals or pesticides. “Crop protection chemical industry should increase efforts to ensure the safety of farmers and laborers on the one hand and ending hunger and malnutrition on the other hand, “exhorted Ms. Patnaik.
Voicing the concerns of common citizens, Dr. Kuntala Sengupta, a Columnist said, “While hearing other panelists, a lot of myths I was carrying have been busted, however, I would suggest the industry to create awareness about this on large scale, so that common citizens of India could benefit and do not fall prey to misinformation or myths on crop protection chemicals.”
Speaking on the hype around organic agriculture, Dr. Kiran K. Khokhar, In-charge of Regional Soil Testing lab at Karnal, Haryana clarified that any crop needed around 60% of nutrients, including nitrogen and with the number of cattle reducing in villages, it was not possible to meet the need by using only cattle manure. “While organic farming as an option of sustainable farming can continue, however, it is impossible to generate the crop yield required for our population. Thus, crop protection chemicals are essential to meet our food needs.”
Laxmidevi A., a Senior Journalist with PTI, advocated the middle ground and appealed to the industry to be united in order to weed out the counterfeited chemicals being pushed by non-industry body members.
Ruchika Chitravanshi, Assistant Editor, Business Standard moderated the session.