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Number of Downlaods: 27

Published Date: Apr 1, 1998

Pesticide Policy (PB-1)

Shahid Zia, SDPI

The aggressive media campaigns by pesticide companies do not comply with FAO guidelines for advertising pesticides. Pakistan adopts FAO guidelines on the issues where Pakistani law is silent. The Pakistan law does not clearly outline the guidelines for advertising pesticides. Our law says only that it is a punishable offence if any person falsely represents a pesticide in an advertisement. However, the FAO code states clearly that pesticide industry should ensure that all advertisements draw attention to warning phrases and symbols as used on labels.  Labels generally, however, mean  little since our rural illiteracy rate is very high. Safety claims with safe use methods and safety warnings should be made part of advertisement by law. As you suggested, it can be made compulsory to run a safety warning after every media pesticide advertisement like cigarette advertisements.

Instructions regarding the storage and use of pesticides are very clear in FAO guidelines. It says that persons engaged in spraying pesticides shall use protective clothing and masks. However, persons engaged in spraying rarely use masks. They sometimes, however, use protective cloths. As you suggested,  farm owners should be required to provide some kind of health insurance or they should be made responsible for treatment costs in case of mishaps. Generally, the persons engaged in spraying belong to the self-employed landless class. One person sprays many fields a day for different owners. Thus, it is very difficult to hold one owner responsible for any health problem. The owner farmers have little, if any, control over them. Systematic media campaign, however, can be used to enhance awareness about safe pesticide use methods.

In addition to this, I would like to draw your attention to two other important issues; use of ineffective pesticides, and use and marketing of banned pesticides.

Pakistan’s present pest control strategy is based mainly on the use of chemicals. Though, in the recent past, increased use of pesticides has helped in enhancing agricultural production, extensive use of pesticides has created many technical and environmental problems. Moreover, due to excessive use of pesticides, whitefly and many other pests have developed resistance. This poses a major  risk to our cotton crop. Some studies show that compounds like cypermethrin, monocrotophos, chlorpyriphos, cyfluthrin, profenophos, thiodicarb, methamidophos that constitute a  major share of the total pesticides used in the country have virtually failed to control pests in the field. Nevertheless, these are still being marketed. There is an urgent need to take a policy decision  to ban the use of pesticides for which resistance has been developed.

In addition, evidence shows that  pesticides that have already been banned because of their known harmful residual effects are still available in the market in Pakistan and are in use . A report of  Pesticide Research Laboratory, Karachi (1994), has documented the results of surveys conducted in 1992 and  in 1993. Pesticide residues were found in more than 70 percent of the samples of fruits, vegetables, cotton seed oil, human blood, and human milk. In more than 20 percent of the samples of fruits and vegetables, the residues were found to be higher than maximum recommended levels. The detected pesticides included DDT, BHC, aldrin, dieldrin, and  heptachlor. It is surprising that the detected pesticides also included some pesticides that are banned in Pakistan like DDT and BHC.  It is proposed that the ban on the use and marketing of  banned pesticides should be strictly enforced.