Pesticides – slow silent poisons

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Irresponsible agrichemical systems continue to blight health around the world. While many UK farmers have tried to reduce the amounts of pesticides – joining schemes such as LEAF – and take precautions with safety gear, the chemicals still make it into our food and the environment. Not all countries have the same regualtions and precautions. And UK usage of pesticides has actually increased in recent times. So what direction should agriculture take in devloping countries?

Polluting people in the Punjab

In the Punjab, a study conducted by the Centre for Science and Environment in India found ‘very high’ levels of pesticide residues in human blood samples that were taken from villagers.

Blood samples collected from four villages in Punjab showed 15 to 605 times higher residues of certain persistent organochlorine pesticides as compared to samples of people in the United States.

The ‘cocktail’ contained from 6 to 13 pesticides in the samples, the study said.

The average levels of monocrotophos in the blood samples (0.095 ppm) were found to be four times higher than the short-term exposure limit for humans set by the World Health Organisation and the Food and Agricultural Organisation, according to the report, released in Chandigarh.

The CSE study calls for urgent action to regulate pesticides use. It calls for action to monitor human bodies — a biomonitoring programme — to ensure that this chemical invasion is stopped.

The study tested 20 randomly selected blood samples from four villages — Mahi Nangal, Jajjal and Balloh in Bhatinda district and Dher in Ropar district. Each sample was tested using an internationally accepted methodology, the report said.

The samples were compared with those collected from people in the US and were tested by the United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. The results were published in its report of 2003, it said.

Organic is the way forward

Evidence presented by the IAASTD and others suggests that organic methods can provide a healthy and viable future, freeing people from pesticides. Yields in hot countries, and on vulnerable soils, are often best under organic systems. Just a few more reasons why Sheepdrove champions ecological farming.

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