Data provided by the government to Parliament indicates that the consumption of chemical pesticides has not decreased in the country with an average consumption of around 60,000 MT over the past nine years. On the other hand, the consumption of bio-pesticides increased by more than 40% between 2015-16 and 2021-22 while their total consumption is less than 1/6e consumption of chemical pesticides.
To ensure that agricultural production meets growing food demand, pesticides are widely used to protect crops from pests. While the availability of safe and effective pesticides and their judicious use by the farming community is critical to the long-term sustainability of agriculture, pesticides have also been identified as a major threat to the Sustainable Development Goals due to their potential to harm non-target species and environment. Exposure to pesticides is associated with cancers and neurological, immunological and reproductive effects, among other health impacts in humans. Excessive and inefficient use of these chemicals has also led to nutrient losses, contamination of drinking water, and eutrophication of freshwater systems and coastal areas.
In addition to the direct consequences for humans and the environment, accidents are another consequence due to toxicity. In 2021 alone, the NCRB reported almost 8000 incidents of accidental ingestion of insecticides/pesticides which resulted in the death of 7800 people in India. Farmer suicides and corporate monopoly are some of the other problems with pesticides.
The consumption of pesticides is also a topic of discussion in various global conferences related to sustainability and the environment. At COP 15 of the Biodiversity Convention, the Indian government said a global numerical target for pesticide reduction is unnecessary and should be left to countries to decide since food security is important in the states. in developing countries where agriculture is the main economic driver for rural areas. communities.
The consumption of chemical pesticides in India has increased over the decades
India being an agrarian economy, more than 40% of the workforce is employed in the sector, thus emphasizing agricultural development in the planning and policy of the country. India is one of the major producers and consumers of pesticides in Asia and in the world. Pesticide consumption in India increased hundreds of times from 154 MT in 1953-54 to 80,000 MT in 1994-95, with the Green Revolution being a major contributor. However, since then consumption has steadily dropped to 54,135 MT in 1999-2000 due to the banning and restriction of the use of organochlorine pesticides and the introduction of the Integrated Pest Management program.
Over the past decade, from 2012-13 to 2021-22, the consumption of chemical pesticides in India averaged 58,429.7 MT. Excluding 2012-13 when consumption was less than 50,000 MT, the average consumption was 59,853.1 MT in nine years. Consumption was lowest in 2012-13 with 45,619 MT and highest in 2017-18 with 63,406 MT consumed. Overall, consumption was higher in the second half of the decade with an average of 61,138 MT against 55,721 MT in the first half.
Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh account for 40% of chemical pesticides consumed in the country
Among the states, Maharashtra is the biggest consumer of chemical pesticides, followed by Uttar Pradesh. With over 10,000 MT consumed by each of these states each year, the two states alone have contributed 38% to 42.4% of the total chemical pesticides consumed in the country each year since 2015-16. Punjab is the third highest consumer with an average of over 5525 MT consumed from 2015-16 to 2020-21. Punjab data for 2021-22 is not yet available. The three states together contributed between 48% and 51% of total consumption over the six years from 2015-16 to 2020-21.
Although Telangana and Haryana had an average consumption of over 4000 MT over the seven years, consumption in Telangana increased until 2017-18 and then stabilized while in Haryana consumption was order from 4000 to 4100 MT during the same period. . The states of Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Jharkhand and Odisha & Jammu & Kashmir saw a gradual increase in consumption during the said period, while states like Kerala and Andhra Pradesh reported a drop in consumption.
The northeastern states of Meghalaya and Sikkim were marked as “organic states” in the response provided to parliament. Among other northeastern states, consumption is mainly in Assam and Tripura.
The consumption of bio-pesticides is increasing
In recent years, the government has encouraged the use of bio-pesticides through various programs. The consumption of bio-pesticides at the national level was 6,148 MT in 2015-16 which increased to 8,898.92 MT in 2021-22. That is to say, over the past seven years, the use of bio-pesticides has increased by almost 45%. Although there has been a continuous increase in the consumption of biopesticides, the quantity is still very less compared to conventional chemical pesticides. The percentage of bio-pesticide consumption compared to chemical pesticide consumption was 15% in 2021-22, compared to 10.8% in 2015-16.
Maharashtra, Rajasthan and West Bengal account for a third of India’s bio-pesticide consumption
Maharashtra was the top consumer of biopesticides till 2019-2020. However, state consumption has been declining since 2016-17. From 1,454 MT in 2016-17 representing one-fifth of national consumption, state consumption has fallen to less than 1,000 MT over the past two years. Its share in consumption also fell to 10.5% in 2021-22. As of 2020-2021, Rajasthan is the biggest consumer of bio-pesticides, surpassing Maharashtra. West Bengal has also consumed over 1000 MT in the last 3 years. The three states continue to account for almost a third of the nation’s biopesticide consumption.
Rajasthan has reported an almost 100-fold increase in biopesticide consumption over the past seven years. Annual consumption was less than 15 MT between 2015-16 and 2018-19 and jumped to 1268 MT in 2021-22, contributing 14.2% of national consumption.
A significant increase was also seen in the states of Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Chhattisgarh. Meanwhile, the states of Kerala and Odisha have seen a decline in consumption over the past 3-4 years. Although it is one of the biggest consumers of chemical pesticides, the consumption of bio-pesticides in Uttar Pradesh has been very low. The state reported consuming less than 50 MT through 2020-21 and 50.88 MT through 2021-22. Although the state has seen an increase in usage, Andhra Pradesh also reported 45 MT in 2021-22. Consumption in these two states is among the lowest among major states.
The government’s push towards sustainable agriculture
According to responses provided to the parliament, the central government promotes sustainable agriculture and encourages the use of biopesticides through the organic farming programs of Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) and Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North Eastern Region (MOVCDNER). Educational programs are organized for farmers to switch to environmentally friendly products. ICAR and state agricultural universities are also working on the development of biopesticides. To promote the judicious use of pesticides, the central and state governments, through their field agencies, ensure that farmers are provided with appropriate knowledge/information on the recommended use of pesticides. The Union Department of Agriculture and Farmer Welfare also disseminates the IPM approach through its 36 Central IPM Centers located in 28 states and 2 UTs. However, as previously observed, the high use of chemical pesticides continues in many states.
The featured image: Consumption of chemical pesticides