‘Introduction of unregistered and untested pesticides could result in ecological disorder’

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working in the agricultural space are strongly opposing the Government ‘prescription’ to address the Fall Armyworm (FAW) menace.

Following reports of widespread incidence of FAW in maize crop in several States, the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare recently came come out with an order that makes it mandatory to treat the seeds with two pesticides — Cyantraniliprole and Thiomethoxam. The Government notification covers seeds of all crops as the FAW is considered polyphagous (which is able to feed on different crops). “Since FAW is a polyphagous in nature and cause significant damage to crops, we recommend compulsory treatment of seeds,” the notification said.

Experts felt that this would mean an ecological disorder. Demanding immediate withdrawal of the notification, they have warned that this could set a precedent to introduce unregistered and untested pesticides.

The Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA) said it is highly objectionable to prescribe pesticides that have not been registered in the country. “This is in violation of the Insecticide Act. We would like to know about the feedback on which the decision has been taken and what was the methodology of collecting such feedback,” CSA said.

In a letter written to the Additional Secretary (Plant Protection Division) in the Directorate of Plant Protection Quarantine and Storage, the CSA argued that it is illegal to make it compulsory to use chemicals that are not tested and registered in the country “even if we assume that the situation is alarming.”

Cyantraniliprole, one of the two pesticides prescribed by the Ministry, can impact various non-target organisms, including mammals, fish, invertebrates and plants. It would have extended period of activity after the application with toxic residues live for up to nearly four years. “It is also mobile. It can move off-site and affect nearby terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems,” the CSA cautioned. The second chemical Thiamethoxam ( TMX) is known to impair the ability of honeybees to fly. “It may also pose reproductive risks on mammalian reproductive health,” it said.

Ministry’s recommendation

In its advisory issued on May 6, the Agriculture Ministry mandated the treatment with Cyantraniliprole 19.8 per cent mixed with TMX in an equal dose at 4 ml per kg seed. This, the notification said, will offer protection up to 2-3 weeks after germination.

Interestingly, it admitted that this formulation is not registered in the country. It also acknowledged that the formulation has not been evaluated in the AICRP (All-India Coordinated Research Project) programme.

Kavitha Kuruganti of Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA), termed the notification a knee-jerk reaction to the FAW attack. “You need to have a scientific study of the incidence and recommend remedies according to it. One of the two chemicals that is suggested proved to do harm to honeybees,” she said.

The CSA said while independently both chemicals have their own bio-safety problems, the co-formulated products may have much more severe impact.

Published on May 22, 2019