Centre restricts use of common weedicide glyphosate citing health hazards

Experts welcome move but call for a complete ban 

By Taran Deol
Published: Monday 31 October 2022

The Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare issued a notice October 21, 2022 restricting the use of glyphosate, a widely used herbicide, citing health hazards for humans and animals. Only authorised Pest Control Operators are allowed to use it. 

Earlier, state governments of Maharashtra, Telangana, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh have tried similar steps but failed. Pesticide Action Network (PAN) India believes stricter action is needed. 

 The notification was based on a 2019 report by the Government of Kerala on prohibiting the distribution, sale and use of glyphosate and its derivatives.

“It is indeed a remarkable development regarding the regulation of highly hazardous pesticides in India,” Jayakumar Chelaton, director of PAN India, was quoted as saying in a statement. 

But restricting use of the weedicide through pest control operators is inadequate as it cannot reduce or eliminate the inherent hazard of glyphosate and the risk arising from its use, he added. “As the government of India (is) now satisfied with the fact that glyphosate use causes health hazards and risk to people and animals, it needs to be banned urgently.” 

Some 35 countries have banned or restricted the use of glyphosate. These include Sri Lanka, Netherlands, France, Colombia, Canada, Israel and Argentina.

Health impacts of glyphosate range from cancer, reproductive and developmental toxicity to neurotoxicity and immunotoxicity. Symptoms include irritation, swelling, burning of the skin, oral and nasal discomfort, unpleasant taste and blurred vision. 

In India, glyphosate has been approved for use only in tea plantations and non-plantation areas accompanying the tea crop. Use of the substance anywhere else is illegal. 

However, a 2020 study by PAN India on the state of glyphosate use in the country had worrying findings. Field studies were conducted in Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Tamilnadu, Telangana and West Bengal. 

Glyphosate was being used in more than 20 crop fields, it was found. Majority of those using the weedicide were not trained for doing so and did not have the appropriate safety precautions.

The rampant use of glyphosate in non-designated areas has severe consequences. Narasimha Reddy, a public policy expert and advisor of PAN India, said in a statement: 

Use of all weedicides including glyphosate is destroying uncultivated food resources and thereby destroying indigenous nutrition habits as well, making rural people and agricultural communities deprived of adequate nutrition, in addition to polluting ecosystems. 

The government needs to come forward to ban glyphosate urgently, he added.

The government’s current move, to restrict the use of glyphosate, may not necessarily work as the presence of pest control operators is “almost non-existent” on the ground, according to PAN India.

The new notification mandates that existing registration certification be put through a further process. Failure to do so will result in appropriate action being taken under the Insecticides Act of 1968. 

Allowing continued use of  glyphosate in India will contribute to widespread use of illegal herbicide tolerant crops, PAN India said in a statement. This will endanger the agroecological nature of Indian farms, apart from spreading the toxic effects to people, animals and the environment, the organisation warned. 

Subscribe to Daily Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.