Monday, November 3, 2008

Consensus for Pesticide Safety in the EU

English-speaking farmers seem to have an advantage. They can participate meaningfully in regulations that affect their sources of income. It would be rare to find a web site from an emerging economy similar to the following one:

The interests of farmers are most prominent in negotiations about world trade. Politicians from countries with large agrarian populations are careful not to concede any quarter to forces that compete with their constituencies. Here is a link to the subject:

We have a contrary position with respect to pesticide safety. Farmers from the third world have nearly no say in deciding on matters of pesticide regulation. Much of this, until now, has been due to language and literacy barriers. Multi-media Internet on broad-band connections offer new possibilities to make the voices of farmers heard.

Pesticide safety standards can improve best through the active participation of farmers and spray operators. We can devise more practical safeguards against harmful exposure. Such an approach will also reduce gaps between regulations on paper and common practices in fields.

You can use a web site such as the one below to record the pesticide safety views of farmers who are not fluent in English:

You can contribute your interviews with farmers to my web site, or I can help you establish your own place for audio files on the Internet. 

Saturday, November 1, 2008

A Key Pesticide Safety Assurance

Food safety is a unifying and universal aim. The pesticide industry, regulators, and activists who work to ban pesticides, can all come together on a platform of food safety. No stakeholder of the world pesticide business wants children and other consumers to consume food with harmful pesticide residues.

I see this as a useful business opportunity for the pesticide industry. Can we do more to ensure that farm produce is safe for human consumption?All manufacturers have the infrastructure to test crop samples for residues of their products. Extension networks that promote and sell pesticide brands can be used to make pre harvest intervals a reality.

All food on retail shelves that is guaranteed against harmful pesticide residues is bound to enjoy high demand. It can also be a route to spatial differentiation. Here is a link which attempts such branding:

It is time to make new definitions for every business of pesticides. Let us sell solutions rather than physical brands alone. Fresh fruits and vegetables are great places to start.

A Pesticide Safety Response to the EU Regulatory Challenge

New EU regulations for pesticides have sparked much controversy. There is a large body of opinion that the proposals will render European agriculture nearly impossible. Here is one link to support such a view:

I am nonplussed by the rejection of risk assessment as a guide for the approval of pesticide molecules. How can we manage pests if intrinsic CMR is held against established pesticides?

The die is nearly cast. EU Ministers will vote on the proposed new rules in less than a week from today. Can China and India do more than merely watch from the side-lines? I believe that a pro-active pesticide safety response is appropriate. Here is a list of elements that can meet public concerns about pesticides:

1. Bundling of protective gear with pesticide packs to make safe use a practical norm.
2. Investment in provisions for skilled manpower for safe pesticide application.
3. Benchmarking with cellular telecommunications and Internet banking to build online databases of safe pesticide use.
4. Remediation systems that address collateral and off-target pesticide effects. 
5. Assurances for urban consumers with respect to food safety from dangerous pesticide residues.

These five steps imply a new template for the way in which a pesticide business is conducted. It is a hard bullet to bite, but it is better than threats to ban large swathes of pesticides on which we depend for food security, public health, and our livelihoods.

Stewardship is an easy route to making the new world of pesticide safety a reality. This function has to be invited to the vanguard of the world business. It requires top-management commitment. Use it as a life-raft, rather than view it as an impediment.

I invite your comments. Please post below. It is not essential to disclose your identity.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Throw Out the Pesticide Safety Baby With The Sea Water

The shipping accident in the Philippines does not have any specific pesticide at its core. That is why the logic of the action reported at the following link eludes me:

There are important lessons for the pesticide industry in this regrettable matter, as in all adverse events. Some competitors may rub their hands in glee at the new business prospects of yet another ill-advised pesticide ban. However, something similar or worse could happen tomorrow to the beneficiaries of today.

Shipping accidents have involved all manners of cargo, including polluting ones such as crude oil. That has not stopped any world trade in the affected commodities. Nevertheless, pro-active measures will be more productive than recrimination alone.

Many countries use pesticides made in other countries. Sea lanes are irreplaceable for world trade in pesticides. The pesticide industry can do more to equip shipping companies with all the information and material resources to deal with accidents that are part and parcel of the very business. 

Packaging development is another issue to consider. Pesticides transported over the high seas should be presented in ways that resist corrosion, pressure, and the other stresses of being submerged. The adverse incident in Philippine waters indicates that RFID can be used to improve safety in this dimension of a world pesticide business.

It remains to be said that pineapples in the Philippines will not benefit from the action proposed at the link I have provided above.

Genetic Engineering, Agronomy, and Pesticide Safety

Controversy over cotton with the B.t. gene persists. Some agronomists celebrate the suppression of lepidopteran pests, while others predict resurgence. A renewed thrust by hemipterans in the meantime cannot be denied. The neonicotinoid success story has been built largely on the changed pest dynamics of genetically engineered crops.

I was in the cotton-growing belt of Northern India recently. B.t. cotton helps with dermal exposure to pesticides, regardless of what it does to pests. B.t, cotton plants have just about half the vegetation of the improved varieties that farmers in Punjab and Haryana grew earlier. Moreover, the plant population per acre has been cut drastically. Here are sequential photographs of the two kinds of cotton near harvest:

I have realized from this example that breeders have important roles in pesticide safety. I invite your views. Please post below.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Typical Pesticide Safety Case

The countryside that borders the highway North from India's capital city is a prime agricultural zone. Punjab and Haryana are the granaries of one of the most populous nations on Earth. Farmers in this belt grow vegetables for the clusters of cities around, apart from vast quantities of cereals and oilseeds

The scene in the video below is common. Many key pesticide safety concepts are violated in this case

Please post your views below after viewing the video clip above. I would like to start a dialog on practical issues in pesticide safety.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Children and Pesticide Safety

Date: October 23, 2008
Time: Around dusk
Place: Chavda Farm House, Pinjupura, on road from Hissar to Narwana in Haryana, India
Tank mix: Nurelle of Dow and Novaluron of Indofil

The children strolled on to the field even as simultaneous spraying and harvesting were in progress. 

We need to do much more to protect children from pesticide abuse. Rural and urban children need separate sets of protective measures. Exposure is a major challenge for farm families. Residues beyond MRLs are unknown issues for children in cities. 

Extension services at points of purchase would be most effective under the present system of pesticide marketing. An alternative is to regulate and monitor all purchases, but the administrative commitment is probably lacking, going by the experience with prescription medicines in India.

Please post below or write to if you have suggestions to safeguard the futures of our children.