Sunday, August 31, 2008

Combination Pesticide Safety

Every one of the three Plant Protection Advisers to the Government of India, with whom I have worked, has been in a titan in office.

I dedicate today's post to the memory of Dr. K. D. Paharia. He was certainly one of the fiercest officials I have ever known. I hated him for a long time because he banned Disulfoton, one of the first molecules with which I launched my career. However, today with reports of Colony Collapse Disorder, I realize that Dr. Paharia was dead right in one respect: he refused to register combination pesticides.

Here are just three of widespread references on how neonicotinoids are suspected to cause Colony Collapse Disorder:

I can appreciate today that Dr. K. D. Paharia would not have stood by idly and let the honey bee colonies of India die. We need his spirit today to restrict the use of dangerous pesticides patented by European companies from invading our biodiversity. Seed treatment with neonictonoids under expert supervision is good enough: there is no case for their unrestricted aerial application after the reproductive phase of a crop life-cycle starts.

I appeal to the Directorate of Plant Protection, Quarantine, and Storage in Faridabad to consider immediate restrictions on neonicotinoid use, to protect the honey bees of India.

Please add your voice to this campaign in the interests of Indian agriculture.

Friday, August 29, 2008

My Trusted Pesticide Safety Aid

"Your Aloe Vera has started flowering".

My wife's words were music to my ears. I had never seen this wonder plant flower before.

However, Aloe Vera is one of my best friends. I have used it in all kinds of weather to keep my skin hydrated when applying pesticides. I have also used in when arranging ground flags during aerial spraying.

Aloe Vera saved me during a 1978 pyrilla epidemic in western U.P, Some of the mill areas were affected by black-bugs, and my arms would get small wounds as I conducted directed spraying with surface-tension reducing agents in rattoon crops. I used Aloe Vera with disinfectant to seal my wounds, and to ensure quicker healing also so that I could return to the fields.

I have now developed my own proprietary aloe vera formulation to protect wounds from pesticide exposure, and to promote healing. This product can also be used to clean hands without using alcohol or any carcinogenic anti-microbial agent.

Aloe vera is economical and hardy. Every person who sprays pesticides should have at least one plant at home.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Pesticide Safety and Salads

"Stop" I cried. "Do not eat tomatoes".

"But I love salads and eat them everyday in college". My son loves to argue and this occasion was no exception.

"This is India". I admonished him. "No one follows pre-harvest intervals here". "I was in Sonepat recently, and discovered that some farmers even spray on the day of harvest".

"What should I eat here?" My son asked me with his head bowed before a plate of uneaten tomatoes.

"Ask your mother to serve you some cooked food". I gave my son a useful solution.

My wife also loves argument.

"Salad is good for him". "You should eat it too". I could not follow why she brought my diet in to the conversation.

"I did not say that he should not eat salad". "I am against tomatoes". "Nowadays, farmers use neonictotinoids and triazoles on tomatoes". As usual, my technical expertise prevailed.

"So what salad items are safe to eat?". I could see a new respect for my professional knowledge in the eyes of my wife.

"Cabbage is best if you wash it first". My wife has never acted on my suggestion so fast.

"Why can't we wash and eat tomatoes?" I knew that this question was bound to arise.

"Neonictotinoid and triazole residues cannot be removed by washing". My answer was pat.

"So what happens with cabbage?" I was ready for this question also.

"Endocel and Sulfex are more popular with cabbage farmers".

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Pesticide Safety for the Honey Bee

It is nearly impossible to exaggerate the importance of the honey-bee.

Apart from pollination and bio-diversity benefits, honey-bees can contribute to rural diversity, including that of peasants with small land-holdings.

There have been unexplained deaths amongst honey-bee populations around the world. There is an urgent need to restore this friend of the farmer to its pristine status.

The uses of neonicotinoids and systemic fungicides during flowering are major risks to honey-bees. These categories of pesticides have been cleared for marketing without adequate considerations of the possible effects on honey-bees.

Please post your valuable opinions below. I am determined to start a new movement for honey-bee conservation.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Sellers Need Pesticide Safety Too

Every pesticide retailer is a vital cog in the pesticide safety chain. It is nearly impossible to achieve improvements in pesticide safety standards without this versatile and dynamic cadre. However, the selfless people who toil so hard to make brands popular, deserve medical care themselves.

Here are some changes that we can agree to make:

1. Store dummy packs on display shelves.
2. Provide ventilation and chimneys with scrubbers where pesticides are stored.
3. Do not eat, drink, or smoke where pesticides are stored.
4. Use skylights instead of electricity where emulsion concentrates are stored.
5. Teach all relevant personnel to use DCP fire extinguishers, and rehearse use of protective gear and containment methods with local fire services.
6. Do not store pesticides in low-lying areas which have been flooded in the past.
7. Insist on annual medical check-ups for all dealers and their workers, and provide insurance as well.
8. Repeat essential pesticide safety information to each customer. Record the customer's understanding and agreement to follow label instructions.
9. Do your best to keep unknown people, women of child-bearing ages, and children from buying pesticides.
10. Keep antidotes handy, and display the number of a local doctor who can treat poisoning cases.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Senior Citizens and Pesticides

Even my amateur flash photography cannot disguise Jogi Paswan's frailty. He is an agricultural laborer from village Debra, under post office Parsa, in the Samastipur district of Bihar.

I do not understand the point of India's progress if Jogi Bhai has to work in this condition. He has cancer of the GI tract. I met him in Mumbai a few days ago.

Paswan's owner-farmers do not even spare him the arduous task of spraying pesticides. He has to protect mango orchards, which means that he has to apply synthetic pyrethroids and carbamates overhead. He has no impervious protective clothing, and has not been trained in safe and judicious pesticide application.

Listen to my interview with him at the following link:

I hope to meet Jogi Paswan again soon. Please add your powerful voice in support of Jogi Paswan and others like him.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A Primary Focus for Pesticide Safety

Agricultural laborers should have priority in pesticide safety. Their responsibilities include spraying chemicals. Even women of child-bearing age are not spared this onerous responsibility. This community is eager and willing to follow safety procedures, but cannot do so without support from their employers.

Shrimati Waghmare, in the photograph below, is not one to turn any blind eye to her responsibilities. It is my fault for making her blink when I took the photograph. It was dark and I could not check on my photography. She has taken charge of family matters as her husband has cancer.

The Waghmare couple live in village Shekharpur of Kandhar taluka in Nanded district of Maharashtra, with two children. I do not have the pincode. They have to Mumbai for Anand's treatment, leaving the children behind.

They are incredibly stoic people. They are true heroes, more than any Olympic medallist. Listen to an interview in Marathi at this link:

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Pesticide Safety Companion

Anil Kumar Sharma, pictured here is from village and post office Roniya. This village is under the Khidar Sarai thana of Gaya district in Bihar. I do not know the pincode.

Anil has cancer of the bone. An elder from his village, who is a cancer-survivor himself, brought Anil to Mumbai soon after the bone pain started. Anil's cancer detection and treatment started relatively early as a result.

Anil has had nothing to do with pesticides in his life before cancer. He may have everything to do with it as he recovers.

Repeated operations have left Anil's right lower limb shorter than his left leg. Anil used to drive a commercial vehicle. He will never be fit enough to drive one again. He runs a shop in the village, selling items of everyday consumption in a struggle to make ends meet.

Anil has agreed to my following suggestions:

1. That he covers his family with medical insurance.
2. That he becomes an insurance agent and sells rural insurance products as detailed in the following link:
3. That he provides expertise in safe and judicious pesticide use. Though Anil has never had anything to do with pesticides in the past, he is willing to get trained and to acquire the required skills.

Please send get-well messages of support to Anil. You can do this directly or by posting below. Hindi transliteration is enabled at this web site, and Anil is fluent in his mother-tongue.

I have approached the New India Assurance Company Limited on August 21st 2008, for help to market health insurance in rural areas. I hope to progress the matter before this month is over.

Here is a link to my interview with Anil on August 19, 2008:

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

No Pesticide but Stll a Tragedy

Shri Ravindra Kumar, pictured here with his wife, is from village Maranchi in Patna district of Bihar (pincode 803301). He is just 26 years old, and a student. He has cancer of the lymphatic system. I met him earlier this week. You can listen to my discussions with him at:

I have come to the following conclusions about this case:

1. Diagnostic facilities are much better in Hyderabad than in Bihar (Ravindra Kumar has left his village to study in Andhra Pradesh).
2. Early detection is the key to successful cancer management. A CT scan in Hyderabad showed Ravindra Kumar's swollen lymph nodes at an early stage. There are no guarantees in this disease, but his prognosis is relatively positive.
3. Ravindra Kumar has never handled pesticides. He has suffered from drift inhalation, but it appears to have been below most NOELs.
4. Ravindra Kumar is knowledgeable about modern science, and can become a vital change-agent for pesticide safety in his village.

Please join me in wishing all the best to Shri and Shrimati Ravindra Kumar.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Pesticide Safety Prayer

Mirajul Ansari, on the right in the picture, is a farmer from village Vishnupurva in Thana Shikarpur, under post office Maldi, in West Champaran, Bihar. (pincode 845455). He owns one bigha of land, and grows paddy, sugarcane, and wheat. He sprays pesticides with everyday clothes and a cloth mask, washes his spray machine with hand-pump water, which he does not quarantine or decontaminate. He keeps pesticides in a separate room of his house. Pesticide drift is also an issue in his village.

His wife Shamshun Khatun on the left of the picture is an icon of Indian culture. I found it hard to avoid her repeated offers of tea and a meal. Finally, I told her that I would return to avail of her hospitality after Thursday, August 21 2008. That is the day Saheb Alam, the brave-heart in the center of the picture will enter hospital yet again for another operation to treat his bone cancer.

The boy is just 13 years old. He is tall and could have been a quality fast bowler for India. He is also exceedingly bright, and could still be a scientist or a manager of modern India. However, the prognosis of his case is not particularly encouraging.

We will never know the real cause of this cancer. However, there is no doubt that invaluable years have been lost due to poor medical facilities in Narkhatiyaganj, the nearest market to this family's village. These unfortunate people received incorrect care in Betia as well. The cancer was only diagnosed at the Benaras Hindu University,after years of suffering. It has recurred and the family is now in Mumbai for treatment.

You can listen to an account of the family's suffering, and of the pesticide safety practices in this part of India, at the following link:

One thing on which we can all agree is that this week's operation must be successful. Please join me in prayer for the family. They are our fellow citizens. Later, we can work together to improve pesticide safety and cancer detection services throughout rural India.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Pesticides and Your Food Safety

My friend Deepak in this picture, returned to India on a holiday after a gap of many years.

One positive change, since his last sojourn here, is the widespread availability of filtered water. We would have to pollute the earth in the old days, to serve potable water after boiling it!

The negative change is subtle, and known only to pesticide professionals. Neo-nicotinoids had not been invented in the old days. Systemic fungicides were also relatively unknown. Nowadays, they are abused in flagrant disregard of strict regulatory conditions.

It is common for farmers to use these kinds of toxic chemicals even on harvest days. Contact insecticides and fungicides can be largely removed by the mere act of washing in running water, but what if the tomatoes and cole slaw in our salads contain harmful levels of systemic toxins?

The United States, where Deepak now resides, has effective quarantine and hygiene systems. They also have CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture, which allows urban communities the freedom to access safe food. Moreover, there are strict penalties for farmers who spray systemic pesticides near harvest.

I do not know when India will realize vital changes in the regulation of new patented molecules that are registered with undue haste, but until then, you can copy my wife, and avoid serving salads of fresh ingredients from unknown sources.

I love salads, and need to eat more of them to lose weight. Please email if you know a source for tomatoes and cabbage free of toxic neo-nicotinoid residues. I am less worried about triazoles because they may help to keep my insides free of pathogenic fungi.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Who Pesticide Safety Professionals Serve

I will publish no pictures today.

This is a post in mourning.

I write to honor Dr. Raghubir Singh Chikara of Bahalgarh, Sonepat in Haryana. His wife and he lost their only son to lymphoma and its treatment.

Dr. Raghubir Singh Chikara is a hero. He continues to serve his patient community though medicine has so tragically failed his family and him.

Cancer is one of the dreaded words in our lexicon. Losing a loved one to this disease is a shattering tragedy.

Cancer is exceptionally vicious when it strikes an innocent child. It robs families and the nation as well.

It is futile to mourn the death alone. We owe society to strive for prevention and change.

Not all the reasons for cancer are known, but there are certainly quite a few.

Cancer is one of the established implications of crossing the NOEL threshold of any pesticide. Pesticide safety professionals can leave no stone unturned to protect all humans, animals, and the environment from avoidable and harmful exposures to essential farm inputs and vector-control agents.

Here is an action plan for which I request your responses:

1. Store pesticides out if reach of children and women of child-bearing ages.
2. Do not spray in windy conditions.
3. Control drift using high-pressure and electrostatic delivery systems.
4. Degrade residues in water, soil, and farm outputs, using alkaline and microbial agents.
5. Monitor health of all individuals at risk, so that every hyperplasia is detected in time, and stopped in its tracks.

Let us all join hands to defeat the scourge of pesticide-abuse and avoidable ill-health.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Most modern pesticides have been invented in countries that do not need them. Chemical pesticides involve global trade. Patents are vital links in the oligopoly of the world pesticide industry. Even India with all its scientific and technological resources has never produced a single novel molecule. There is no escape in sight from the domination of elite pesticide producing countries over the emerging and third worlds. Bans on generic pesticides of established properties pave roads for pesticide empires to sustain themselves.

Industries and services have gained from India's concessions on the patent front. Our farmers have to foot the bill. They are saddled with irrelevant use practices when it comes to pesticides that are produced elsewhere. It is not as though they wish to poison their fields and families. However, they need practical measures to continue with their livelihoods.

These are my conclusions from my interview of Shri Karamveer Singh of village Jajal in the post office area of Jhumudpur in Sonepat, Haryana(pincode 131001). I met him on August 04, 2008 at Mahalaxmi Traders in Padri Kalam. Shri Sunil Kumar owns this shop: he is also a progressive farmer.

Please email if you would like a full audio file of my interview. Shri Karamveer Singh is on the right in the picture.

I have incorporated my findings of this field visit in the MatriMarg initiative for better pesticide safety and rural health standards.

Please post your views below.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Independence Day Special on Pesticides Safety

The photograph above is from the 25th of last month (July 2008). I have saved it for a special occasion, such as today, the celebration of my land's renewed freedom.

Everyone in the picture has a special place in my heart. But Pujya Kantisen Shroff (Kaka to his flock) towers over everyone else.

The photograph was taken in Pujya Kaka's Kutch office at Shrujan. The subject of discussion was pesticide safety and rural health. This was at my request, because my friends had originally planned to meet Pujya Kaka on another matter.

Please use the link below to hear a record of our deliberations:

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Modern Pesticides Ancient Safety Standards and Assertive Action for Positive Change

Shri Naresh Kumar s/o Sunder Lal of village Tanda (mobile: 9996324954) is a symbol of India: he is modern and ancient at the same time. He is an optimist as well, always ready for change and to improve. He is my hero and I dedicate the rest of my life to serve him and his ilk.

The spray machine was a give-away. Shri Sanjay Singla and I could make out that this person on a motor-cycle must be a spray operator. These people existed even in the 1970s when I first entered farm-input marketing. However, there were symbols of change. The mobile was most striking. Naresh Kumar gets calls from farmers who want their fields sprayed. You can call him as well, wherever you may reside. Soon, Naresh will have a 3G mobile and the Internet will be at his beck and call. India is on the march!

Naresh will have protective clothing by the time you read this, but he has sprayed with his tee-shirt until I met him. He has never had a medical check-up, and has no medical records. Who will answer to his family if he succumbs to abusive practices?

Naresh exhibits typical signs of synthetic pyrethroid and neo-nicotinoid poisoning. He cannot sleep at night because his entire back itches and burns. You can see the swelling of his face in the photograph above.

I have warned Naresh that protective clothing makes one feel hot. However, Naresh is not afraid of facing any inconvenience to safeguard his health. He is cynical though, because unethical pesticide companies have promised him help in the past, but failed to deliver.

This will not happen again. I take personal responsibility to train Naresh and others like him in safe and judicious pesticide use, just as my mentors did when I was his age. I will also offer him a free medical check-up through my friend Shri Raj Singh of Bawana, and build an electronic medical record for him.

Please hold me accountable for these tasks, and help with all the resources at your command, to improve pesticide safety standards around the world. I am sick and fed-up of idle criticism by armchair-activists. Let us walk the talk.

Tomorrow is the best day to start.

Jai Hind!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

How Do Farmers View Pesticide Safety?

Hospitality is the bonus of every meeting with farmers. I sampled a delicious dessert at the house of Shri Samay Singh of village Badoli in Sonepat district of Haryana on the 04th August 2008. There were filling savories and plenty of tea as well. My only regret is that I forgot to offer the refreshments to Shri Virendra, who had kindly driven me all the way from New Delhi. My friends and I did not need to eat any more all day, but poor Virendra went hungry.

Shri Samay Singh is on the left in the photograph above. Shri Pratap Singh is the other venerated village elder from Badoli. The picture below is of the gathering:

Here are some of the main points I gathered from the farmers:

1. Allergies are amongst the most serious health problems in the village.
2. Health literacy is low; the farmers are content with only rudimentary medical facilities.
3. The farmers are receptive to ideas about pesticide safety and preventive medicine.

Shri Sanjay Singla, about who I have written in an earlier post, made an impassioned plea to the farmers to enroll in health insurance schemes. He narrated his personal experiences in this respect.

I have a full audio record of the meeting. Please email for a copy.

I will use my experience at and findings from Badoli in execution of the MatriMarg initiative for pesticide safety. Thank you for posting below, your suggestions for better pesticide safety standards. I will respond to all posts within 24 hours.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Seller Role in Improving Pesticide Safety Standards

I met Shri Ransingh s/o Dharam Singh Saini from village Joshi Chohan, post office Bahalgarh, district Sonepat (pincode 1310021) on the 04th August 2008.

Shri Ransingh is a typical face of modern India. He is a veteran cultivator, and a dynamic retailer for farm inputs as well. I spoke to him about pesticide safety, rural health, and related matters. Please use the following link for an audio record of the interview:

I took away the following lessons from this encounter:

1. Top retailers are powerful change-agents to promote pesticide safety.
2. Health care facilities in villages need urgent upgrading.

What do you think? Please post below.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

New Organizational Principles for Better Pesticide Safety Standards

It is always a wonder to meet Akhil. Though he is a person of many parts, it suffices to describe him as an explorer. He travels not just across the most inaccessible places on earth, but interacts with varied minds. Many communities have enjoyed his friendship, and I for one certainly cherish my association with his extended family and with him.

Regulars on this web log will recall a post on improving pesticide safety standards through rural women. Please use this link to read the post, if this is your first visit:

Akhil has spent most of his professional life around rural communities. The figure behind him in the photograph is of a rural doctor from ancient Chile.

Akhil offered the following insights during my interview with him on the 06th August 2008:

1. Rural women are a potent force of change.
2. India has enabling infrastructure for the organization of rural women.
3. Pesticide safety awareness in urban India is poorer than in our villages.

The full interview is available at the following link:

I can also send a direct copy to any email address: please ask at

Akhil has let me work with the Krishi Vigyan Kendra at Ambala during the first week of September 2008. I hope to launch a chapter of MatriMarg there. Bookmark this web log for regular updates.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Top Class Pesticide Safety Change Agent Profile

I dedicate today's post to Shri Raj Singh s/o Bharat Singh from village and post office Nangal Thakran on the outskirts of Delhi (pincode 39). I met him on the 05th of August 2008. He hosted a very pleasant lunch. I look forward to working with him again on the 04th and 05th of next month.

Why is Shri Raj Singh the kind of resource the world needs for pesticide safety? First, he is a man of unimpeachable integrity. He is determined to serve society, and takes on the most daunting of challenges with a smile.

His clarity and vision on pesticide matters are astute. Email me at for an audio record of my interview with him. I also met Shri Rishi Pal Arya with Shri Raj Singh. Arya is a knowledgeable cultivator, but a teacher as well. He had to rush to take a class, so my interview and photograph will have to wait until my next Bawana trip. I hope to visit the area every month to start a pesticide safety and rural health services project. I will report on progress at this web log.

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Pesticide Safety Perspective of a Master Cultivator

I was glad that incessant rains had disrupted my field schedule for the day. It gave me a reason to spend more time with a farmer of rare expertise.

Shri Jille Singh Rana, of village Siraspur on the outskirts of Delhi, (pincode 42) is more than a Guru when it comes to the cultivation of medicinal plants: he is also an exceedingly generous person, of a caliber that one does not find commonly anymore. Shri Jille Singh Rana not only gave my companions and me delicious fruits to eat, but heaped us with gifts to take home as well.

Here is a picture of Shri Jille Singh Rana in his patch of wheat grass, which he blends with neem and a medicinal creeper, to make an indigenous anti-oxidant (Shri Rana supplies plant material to a reputed herbalist organization):

Here is a picture of a creeper, the stalks of which are added to wheat grass and neem for the herbal anti-oxidant:

Shri Jille Singh Rana taught me about more than herbal anti-oxidants. He showed me the Naag Daman, a plant that keeps snakes away. Here is a photo:

There is also a rare Mor Pankhi or Thuja Exacta plant on the form. Here is a picture:

I hope to visit the farm again soon. There are many other rare fruit trees and plants. I ran out of battery power taking photographs to my heart's content.

This was fortunate in a sense. I used the wet weather to ask the veteran cultivator about safe and judicious use of pesticides. His views are remarkable. Send an email to
if you would like to have a full audio record.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Indigenous Insights on Pesticides and Pest Management

It was late on the afternoon of July 25th 2008 when Hrishit Shroff suggested that we visit one of his family farms called Ravi Bag in Kutch, Western India. It had been a long day, but Hrishit is a dear friend, so I agreed.

The farm manager, Pratap Saparia in the photograph above, did not make any special first impression on me. After all, I am the pest management authority: what can any farm manager teach me?

The child in the photograph intrigued me. He is Pratap Bhai's younger son. He had the courage, unlike his elder brother and his sister, to ask for a ride in Hrishit's car. His name, appropriately, is Bahadur.

You can tell from the picture that Ravi Bag has a cotton field. You can guess, if you know Kutch, that this farm must be irrigated, because you cannot have such tall plants in July if you depend on heavenly precipitation alone.

I can vouch for pest management at Ravi Bag. It is immaculate. I did my best, but could find no pests. Grudgingly, I asked Pratap Bhai for details of his plant protection schedule. I was taken aback by his answer. I have it all on audio file. Send me an email at if you want a copy. I assure you that Pratap Bhai can teach a thing or two to any pest management expert.

Here is a clue to Pratap Bhai's secret weapons:

I have realized, after my July 2008 Ravi Bag visit, that there is no substitute for practical farm-management experience. However, all was not lost for me as I found that Bahadur had a skin infection and some dental problems as well.

Is it time to move from plant health alone to rural health as a whole?

Here is a picture, in the meantime, of the full Saparia family of Ravi Bag. Daughter Jetal on the right does very well at school. The future of Mother India is safe.