Pesticides are chemical or biological substances that are intended to prevent, destroy, repel or reduce all types of pests. They represent the last input in agriculture and are used to prevent rotting crops from pests such as insects, fungi, weeds, thereby increasing overall productivity.
But a new study finds that 64 percent of agricultural land worldwide has higher levels of pesticide chemicals than what industry standards consider to be ‘no-effect concentrations’.
One-third are considered high-risk, with pesticide levels more than 1,000 times higher than the no-effect concentration.
The study, published in Nature Geoscience, shows the ‘widespread risk of global pesticide pollution’ by examining nearly 100 agrochemicals used in 168 countries.
Risks to soil, atmosphere, and surface and groundwater are also considered.
The study found that Asia has the largest land area at high risk of pollution – 1.9 million square miles – with China accounting for more than half.
Scientists worry that overuse of pesticides will upset the balance, destabilize ecosystems, and reduce the quality of the water sources that humans and animals rely on to survive.
The impact of pesticides on farmers’ lives can be measured by the fact that farmers in India lose about 20-25 percent of their total production due to pests and diseases.
Also with urbanization and increasing population levels, the total arable land available per capita has decreased over the years, prompting farmers to use more pesticides to increase crop yields.
Currently, India is the 4th largest pesticide producer in the world and according to a study, the Indian pesticide market was valued at worth ₹ 197 billion in 2018.
The market is further projected to reach ₹ 316 billion by 2024, growing at a Combined Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 8.1 percent during 2019-2024.
As of October 2019, a total of 292 pesticides were registered in India. However, the agriculture ministry recently proposed a ban on the manufacture, sale and use of 27 pesticides in the country due to concerns that they could pose a risk to humans and animals.
This is estimated to cost about a quarter of the total pesticides industry and a business loss of ₹ 6,000 crore, in addition to affecting farmers’ interests as a substitute which costs four times as much.
The 37th Standing Committee of the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers estimated in 2002 that each year, Indian farmers face a loss of ₹ 90,000 crores due to pests and diseases. In fact, we use more than 55,000 tonnes of pesticides every year.
However you will be surprised to know that pesticide use in India is one of the lowest (~ 0.3 kg / ha) in the world. By comparison, countries such as China (~ 14.82 kg / ha), Japan (~ 11.85 kg / ha) and South Korea’s pesticide use (~ 11.70 kg / ha) were more than 50 times higher.