Insight: The poison pill in India’s search for cheap food
Monday, July 29, 2013
MUMBAI/NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Nearly a decade ago, the Indian government ruled out a ban on the production and use of monocrotophos, the highly toxic pesticide that killed 23 children this month in a village school providing free lunches under a government-sponsored program.
Despite being labeled highly hazardous by the World Health Organization (WHO), a panel of government experts was persuaded by manufacturers that monocrotophos was cheaper than alternatives and more effective in controlling pests that decimate crop output.
India, which has more hungry mouths to feed than any other country in the world, continues to use monocrotophos and other highly toxic pesticides that rich and poor nations alike, including China, are banning on health grounds.
Although the government argues the benefits of strong pesticides outweigh the hazards if properly managed, the school food poisoning tragedy underlined criticism such controls are virtually ignored on the ground.