The growing threat from pesticides

There has been a three-fold increase in chemical pesticides use in Bangladesh over the last decade. Gullible and illiterate farmers inBangladesh are persuaded by glib sales talk at promotional camps, and through incentive schemes, to buy new unregistered such pesticide formulations not knowing what dangerous impact the same have on humans and the environment.
The environmental impact of pesticides is often greater than what is intended by those who use them. Over 98% of sprayed insecticides and 95% of herbicides reach a destination other than their target species, including non target species — air, water, bottom sediments, and food .Chemical pesticide contaminates land and water when it escapes from production sites and storage tanks, when it runs off from fields from rains and winds, when it is discarded, when it is sprayed aerially, and when it is sprayed into water to kill algae.
Pesticides can contribute to air pollution. Pesticide drift occurs when pesticides suspended in the air as particles are carried by wind to other areas, potentially contaminating them. Chemical pesticides that are applied to crops can volatilize and may be blown by winds into nearby areas, potentially posing a threat to wildlife.
In the United States chemical pesticides were found to pollute every stream and over 90% of wells sampled in a study by the US Geological Survey. Pesticide residues have also been found in rain and groundwater. Studies by the UK government showed that pesticide concentrations exceeded those allowable for drinking water in some samples of river water and groundwater.
Many of the chemicals used in pesticides are persistent soil contaminants, whose impact may endure for decades and adversely affect soil conservation. The use of pesticides decreases the general biodiversity in the soil. Not using the chemicals results in higher soil quality.
Pesticides inflict extremely widespread damage and many countries have acted to discourage pesticide usage through their biodiversity action plans. But in a survey of 820 boro(winter rice), potato, bean, eggplant, cabbage, sugarcane and mango farmers in Bangladesh, more than 47 percent of farmers were found to use more pesticides than needed to protect their crops.
With only four percent of our farmers formally trained in pesticide use or handling, and over 87 percent freely admitting that they used little or no protective measures while applying pesticides, overuse is potentially a very threatening problem to farmers’ health as well as the environment in this country. Thus, in Bangladesh there is an urgent need to actively promote safer pesticide use. Research findings also highlight the need for policymakers to design effective, targeted outreach programs that address pesticide risk, safe handling, and protection. The approach should ideally be participatory, with a view to addressing the most dangerous information gaps. Another important finding from Bangladesh is that specific crops and geographic locations experience more overuse than others. For the most measurable results, interventions should focus on these crops and regions.
Information on how pesticides affect health is quite limited in Bangladesh. Farmers, therefore, should be encouraged to switch to lower-hazard pesticides and use protective gear to reduce individual health risks.
A great deal of positive changes can occur with Integrated Pest Management (IPM). IPM comprises a range of approaches, from carefully targeted use of chemical pesticides to biological techniques that use natural parasites and predators to control pests. Interview results also suggest substantial health and ecological benefits.
However, collective adoption of these methods is a must. Neighbours’ continued reliance on chemicals to kill pests will also kill helpful parasites and predators, as well as exposing IPM farmers and local ecosystems to chemical spillovers from adjoining fields.


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