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Pesticides Management Bill 2020: Polishing The Existing Law

India is among the leading producers and consumers of pesticides in Asia, with Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, and Haryana among the states with the highest recorded consumption.

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The Pesticides Management Bill (Amendment), 2020 has been approved by the Union Cabinet. The bill will regulate the business of pesticides and compensate farmers just in case of any losses from the utilization of agrochemicals (chemicals utilized in agriculture, like a pesticide or fertilizer). The pesticide business was regulated earlier by rules under the Insecticides Act 1968, which is the act amended in 2020. According to a report by Research and Markets (world’s largest market research store), the Indian pesticides market was worth Rs 197 billion in 2018 and is projected to reach a value of Rs 316 billion by 2024. Pesticide is a booming industry in India and must be regulated under the legal system.

India is among the leading producers and consumers of pesticides in Asia, with Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, and Haryana among the states with the highest recorded consumption. We need the 2020 bill because farmers use pesticides on a large scale without adequate knowledge. There have been cases of poor quality and in some cases fake pesticides supplied to the farmer. Some pesticides are sourced from unregistered suppliers, including the ones banned in India. The information system is not particularly good for the farmers either, including quantities to be used, legality of usage or the repercussions it can have on their health by pesticide poisoning. Spurious usage can deteriorate soil quality There is thus a regulation problem in this sector. The pesticides not only harm crops, but also soil fertility and the environment overall. Spurious and unregulated use of agrochemicals is responsible for the losses of not just farmers but also producers of genuine agrochemicals/pesticides and the government, who lose revenue from the sales of the counterfeit farm inputs.

To better regulate these issues, the union government brought about The Pesticides Management Bill (Amendment), 2020. Some of the key provisions of this act are:

 Pesticide Database: It will empower farmers by providing them with all the information about the pesticides, the risks involved and available alternatives. All information will be available openly in a digital format and in native language. They will also be educated on good and bad chemicals, along with the list of banned ones.

Compensation: The Bill has a novel provision in the form of a compensation to farmers in case there is any loss because of the spurious use or low quality of pesticide. A central fund will be formed to take care of this issue.

Organic Pesticides: These are pesticides that are made up of naturally occurring substances, which are easily decomposed. The Bill also intends to promote organic pesticides.

Registration of Pesticide Manufacturers: All pesticide manufacturers must be registered under the new act, including the ones registered under the previous one under 2 years.

• The advertisements of pesticides will be monitored so there is no confusion and no cheating by the manufacturers, so that there are no false promises to the farmer.

• There will be a Central Pesticide Board, to regulate production, use, and trade of pesticide. This board will have representatives from central government, state government, and farmer community.

Despite these new provisions, there are certain issues with this amendment which experts have highlighted across 2020, which would require looking into:

• It would make illegal, the manufacturing and export of pesticides that are not registered for use in India even if they are legal in other countries. This is not a positive move as it will decrease Indian exports.

• This bill will increase the import of pesticide formulations and will serve as a deterrent for the export of agro-chemicals. This is contrary to the recommendations provided by the Ashok Dalwai Committee, constituted in 2018 to promote domestic and indigenous industries and agricultural exports from India. The committee has recommended reduction in imports and imported formulations.

• The bill gives powers to the registration committee to review pesticides and then suspend, cancel, or even ban its usage as per requirement. This would be done not be done by any scientific evaluation. If a farmer is dependent on any of the manufacturers, it will negatively impact him/her. This threatens the harvest produce, and indirectly the food security.

• The bill also provides for re-registration of pesticides already registered under the 1968 Act. This will bring instability in the pesticides industry.

• As per pesticide manufacturers, if the farmer does not use the legally purchased pesticide in an irresponsible manner, the manufacturers should not be charged.

• Class I pesticides should be banned as per the World Health Organization, which classifies certain pesticides as extremely hazardous (Class IA) and highly hazardous (Class IB). Necessary provisions are not addressed in the 2020 bill to ban sale and use of Class I pesticides.

• The bill does not incorporate any provision which makes it illegal to sell a pesticide by a company without personal protective equipment or safety gear. There are no provisions for acute medical emergencies.

• The “Polluter Pays Principle” is coming up as the basis for fixing liability and compensation from any company/person who is causing the pollution. Any such pesticide registration must follow transparent assessment procedure on polluter pays principle.

A regulated and fair pesticide market is imperative to address food security, increase export and farmers’ income, along with achieving the goal of self-reliant India. Overdose of pesticide can cause serious illness, which is detrimental to human resource in a young population like India. With over 50% of the Indian population dependent on agriculture, it is necessary to address the issues at hand.