Row over pesticides

Published: Wednesday 15 December 1993

-- THE PESTICIDES Association of India (PAI) and the ministry of environment and forests (MEF) are at loggerheads over a draft notification that includes pesticides in the list of products to be covered by the eco-mark scheme. The scheme labels products that are environment friendly.

Though the MEF claims this will encourage the production and use of pesticides that are not harmful to the environment, PAI says it contravenes the Insecticides Act, 1968, which prohibits labelling of insecticides with any unwarranted claims of safety. PAI also argues pesticides need specific methods of administration, depending on crop, soil and climate and that labelling them as "eco-friendly" could be misleading and lead to its indiscriminate use.

PAI officials are also not convinced about the eco- friendliness of bio-pesticides. They cite studies that show some pesticides derived from neem are harmful to aquatic life, while others are harmful to silkworms. MEF officials admit a product considered harmless today may later prove to be toxic and, therefore, think it appropriate to label products as "environmentally acceptable" rather than "environmentally friendly".

Says MEF joint secretary George Joseph, "What we intend to give a customer is an eco choice." And, though H S Behl of PAI insists pesticides will have to be "knocked out" of the notification, Joseph maintains, "We have made our point."

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