Saturday, October 18, 2008

No Pesticide Safety in a Tank Mix

Regulation of combination pesticides is a grave task. There was a time when combinations of pesticides were banned in India. The pesticide industry has managed a few registrations under the new dispensation, but they remain largely restricted. Acute toxicity is a severe hazard with any combination pesticide. This potentially fatal risk is accentuated by the modern trend of marketing pesticides without known antidotes. Moreover, antidotes and treatment measures are specific to chemical groups, and may be contra-indicated for pesticide combination partners. Combinations of pesticides with hydrocarbons complicate the medical task of lavage in poisoning emergencies. The pesticide industry and land-lords may love combination products, but they are crippling burdens for landless laborers who are forced to spray such products to earn their livings. I have sold combination-pesticides at the start of my career, but am now in favor of rotational spray schedules with single ingredients.

A tank-mix in the field is far worse than a pesticide that the industry has persuaded regulators to register. Brand owners will employ safeguards to use compatible solvents and emulsifiers and reduce obvious phyto-toxicity. Medical toxicologists have to apply their minds to the management of poisoning cases before they approve labels of such pesticide combination products. Nothing of the sort happens when a large farmers orders his laborers to make and use untested combinations of pesticides.

I have a pesticide safety project in Northern India. This takes me to growing fields in the area every month. The over-riding impression I have is of the ubiquitous use of unregistered products and of illegal combinations. I challenge you. Drive in to any high pesticide-use area in India, and you will find tank-mixes to be awfully common. How should doctors manage poisoning cases involving tank-mixes of pesticides? This will be my focus area as I tour North India next week.

Please raise your voice against the illicit practice of tank-mixes of pesticides. Ask sellers to desist from encouraging such abuses of pesticides. Request farmers to desist from this pernicious practice. Ask regulators to be vigilant and resolute in stopping pesticide abuse. Together, we can make pesticide safety a reality. 

No comments: