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Pesticide Poisoning

  • 29 Dec 2023
  • 8 min read

For Prelims: Droughts, Crop Failures, pesticide poisoning, Insecticides Act, 1968 and the Insecticides Rules, l971.

For Mains: Importance of pesticides as per agricultural productivity is concerned and associated health and Environmental concern.

Source: TH

Why in News?

Recently, in Maharashtra which is prone to droughts and crop failures, pesticide poisoning has claimed the lives of many farmers and farm workers in recent years.

What are Pesticides?

  • About:
    • Pesticide is any chemical or biological substance intended to prevent, destroy or control damage from pests which has both agricultural and non-agricultural uses.
    • They also pose serious risks to human health and the environment, especially when they are misused, overused, or sold illegally.
  • Types:
    • Insecticides: The chemicals that are used to protect plants from insects and pests are known as Insecticides.
    • Fungicides: This class of crop protection chemicals is used to control the spread of fungal diseases in plants.
    • Herbicides: Herbicides are chemicals that kill or control the growth of weeds in the cultivation area.
    • Bio-Pesticides: They are Pesticides of biological origin, i.e., derivedfrom animals, plants, bacteria etc.
    • Others: This includes plant growth regulators, nematicides,rodenticides and fumigants.
  • Pesticide Poisoning:
    • Pesticide poisoning is a term that refers to the adverse effects of exposure to pesticides on humans or animals.
    • According to the World Health Organization (WHO), pesticide poisoning is one of the leading causes of death among agricultural workers worldwide.
    • Pesticides can be classified into two types, Acute (short-term) and chronic (long-term).
      • Acute poisoning occurs when a person ingests, inhales, or comes into contact with a large amount of pesticide in a short period of time.
      • Chronic poisoning occurs when a person is exposed to low doses of pesticide over a long period of time, which can cause damage to various organs and systems in the body.
  • Recently Banned Pesticides:
    • The government has banned three more insecticides in 2023: Dicofol, Dinocap, and Methomyl, in addition to monocrotophos.

How Pesticides are Regulated in India?

  • Pesticides are regulated under the Insecticides Act, 1968 and the Insecticides Rules, l971.
  • The Insecticides Act of 1968 covers the registration, manufacture and sale of pesticides in India.
  • The Act is administered by the Department of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare.


The Pesticide Management Bill, 2020 was introduced in Rajya Sabha in 2020. It seeks to regulate the manufacture, import, sale, storage, distribution, use, and disposal of pesticides, in order to ensure the availability of safe pesticides and minimize the risk to humans, animals, and environment. The Bill seeks to replace the Insecticides Act, 1968.

What are the Concerns regarding uses of Pesticides?

  • Harmful Effects on Farmers:
    • Experts believe that chronic low-level pesticide exposure is associated with a broad range of nervous system symptoms such as headache, fatigue, dizziness, tension, anger, depression, and impaired memory, Parkinson's disease, and Alzheimer's disease, among others.
  • Harmful Effect on Consumers:
    • Pesticides go up the food chain by working their way through the environment and into the soil or the water systems after which they are taken by aquatic animals or plants and ultimately humans. This process is called Biomagnification.
  • Harmful Effect on Agriculture:
    • Continued use of pesticides for decades has contributed significantly to the current ecological, economic and existential crisis of the Indian agriculture sector.
  • Regulatory Issues:
    • Although agriculture is a state subject, education, and research related to insecticides are governed by the Insecticides Act, 1968, which is a central act. Therefore, state governments do not have a direct role in amending this act.
      • It is due to this that an estimated 104 pesticides that are still produced/ used in India, have been banned in two or more countries in the world.
    • In 2021, non-profit Pesticide Action Network (PAN) International released a list of highly hazardous pesticides, of which over 100 pesticides are currently approved for use in India.

Way Forward

  • Regulatory Reforms:
    • Strictly enforce regulations to curb the illegal sale and misuse of pesticides.
    • Implement penalties for those found violating pesticide usage guidelines.
  • Government Support:
    • Provide financial support to farmers to help them adopt safer and more sustainable agricultural practices.
    • This could include subsidies for organic farming, integrated pest management, or the purchase of safer pesticides.
  • Community Awareness Programs:
    • Conduct awareness campaigns at the community level to educate people about the risks associated with pesticide use.
    • Involve local communities in monitoring and reporting cases of misuse or poisoning.
  • Compensation Mechanism:
    • Establish a compensation mechanism for victims of pesticide poisoning.
    • Ensure a swift and transparent process for filing claims and receiving compensation for medical expenses and economic losses.

UPSC Civil Services Examination, Previous Year Questions (PYQs)

Q. Lead, ingested or inhaled, is a health hazard. After the addition of lead to petrol has been banned, what still are the sources of lead poisoning? (2012)

  1. Smelting units
  2. Pens and pencils
  3. Paints
  4. Hair oils and cosmetics

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

(a) 1, 2 and 3 only
(b) 1 and 3 only
(c) 2 and 4 only
(d) 1, 2, 3 and 4

Ans: (b)

Q. In India, the use of carbofuran, methyl parathion, phorate and triazophos is viewed with apprehension. These chemicals are used as (2019)

(a) pesticides in agriculture
(b) preservatives in processed foods
(c) fruit-ripening agents
(d) moisturizing agents in cosmetics

Ans: (a)

  • To promote organic farming, the Department of Agriculture, Kerala, has ordered a ban on the use of around 17 pesticides since 2011.
  • The list of banned pesticides are:
    • Insecticides: Cabofuran, Methyl Demeton, Methyl Parathion, Monocrotophos, Phorate, Methymol, Profenofos, Triazophos, Endosulfan
    • Fungicides: MEMC, Ediphenphos, Tricyclazole, Oxythioquinox
    • Weedicides: Anilophos, Paraquat, Thiobencarb, Atrazine
  • Therefore, option (a) is the correct answer.
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