No check on use of highly toxic pesticide

How easy is it to access a bottle of monocrotophos pesticide, which was allegedly used to poison the ‘prasada’ served to devotees at the Sulwadi temple in Chamarajanagar district that claimed 15 lives? A farmer can simply knock on the door of the local pesticide dealer, who is not too particular about checking his land records, and purchase a bottle. What’s more, the Department of Agriculture admits that there is no mechanism to ensure that monocrotophos pesticide, which belongs to the highly toxic organophosphorus family, is not wrongly used. This pesticide, sold at subsidised rates to farmers at Raitha Samparka Kendras, is banned on vegetables. However, it is allowed to be used on crops such as paddy, cotton, toor dal, maize, and sugarcane. Once the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) found traces of monocrotophos in the poisoned ‘prasada’, investigation showed that it was easily accessed by the accused through an Agriculture Department employee. A senior official in the Agriculture Department told The Hindu that monocrotophos was banned on vegetables following reports of residual effects of the pesticide after the harvest. “But, we have no system to verify whether the pesticide is wrongly used, maybe for controlling pests on vegetables,” admitted the official, saying there is a likelihood that farmers misuse it. “But, farmers are often counselled not to use it on vegetables.” “We sell a maximum of two litres of pesticide to each farmer after assessing the type of crop grown,” another department official said. While the Agriculture Department insists on RTCs (Record of Rights, Tenancy and Crops) from farmers when issuing pesticides, some dealers who sell monocrotophos (at the maximum retail price), do not ask for the land records. A dealer in Mysuru, however, insisted he takes “utmost care” to ensure it does not fall into the wrong hands. “We don’t usually sell pesticides without asking the farmer about his crops. Usually, we tell farmers to bring a photograph of pest-attacked crop and the pest, to recommend a suitable pesticide.”

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