Memorandum of Swadeshi Jagran Manch about Pesticide Management Bill 2020
August 05, 2021
The Chairperson and Members,
The Standing Committee on Agriculture,
Parliament of India.
Subject: Memorandum of Swadeshi Jagran Manch about Pesticide Management Bill 2020.
Swadeshi Jagran Manch is a Socio political platform representing people from various walks of life, working towards promoting indigenisation with a vision of Atmanirbhar Bharat with a balanced approach towards environment, indigenisation, decentralisation and employment.
On the outset, Swadeshi Jagran Manch wishes to express its commitment towards natural agriculture free from chemicals, to safeguard the interests of the people. However, It’s highly unfortunate that the Insecticide Act 1968, was not capable to provide enough safeguards against hazardous impacts of these chemicals. Regulation of pesticides in India has been generally unscientific and lackadaisical, which is evident from the large scale deaths and hospitalisations of farm workers and farmers due to acute poisoning, the residues of banned and restricted pesticides showing up in food and environmental samples, export consignments getting rejected on numerous occasions due to pesticide residues, accidental deaths like those of children in Chhapra in Bihar due to pesticide poisoning, spurious/misbranded chemical pesticides being passed off as bio-pesticides, bird/wildlife deaths due to poisonings, fish-kill in water bodies, contaminated environmental resources etc. NCRB data says that in 2019, 31,026 people died in India by insecticides (suicides and accidental intake). If we add chronic exposure impacts of pesticides to this, these numbers would be in millions. India is still continuing with many pesticides which have been banned or severely restricted by many other countries for their hazardous impacts. Though, in modern times, thanks to emerging agro-ecological science’s approach to pest management, our existing regulatory regime has not evolved with the same and still lays too much emphasis on ‘killing pests’ rather than ‘managing pests’ through numerous highly successful non-chemical practices. On the outset Swadeshi Jagran Manch acknowledges that the present ‘Pesticide Management Bill (PMB) 2020’ is an improved one, as compared to earlier versions of the Bill. We note with pleasure that the present Bill has extended its scope to include advertising, packaging, pricing, labelling, disposal also in its scope. It states that it may constitute an authority to exercise powers for price fixation and perform functions to regulate the price of pesticides. It also states that registration of pesticide shall also be guided by factors including safety, efficacy, necessity, end-use of the pesticides, risk involved. It also states that Registration Committee may conduct an independent enquiry to verify the information submitted by the applicant.
However, after a perusal of PMB 2020, SJM wishes to point out to the following shortcomings and gaps, which are needed to be taken note of and necessary changes are required to be made to achieve national objectives of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ and safety from hazardous impacts of pesticides:
Atmanirbhar Bharat Mission:
1. Country at present is hugely dependent on the imports of pesticides, despite the fact that country has huge potentials with respect to manufacturing of pesticides. Moreover, due to faulty rules favouring imports, import of pesticides were encouraged against the interests of domestic manufacturing. Unfortunately, present draft doesn’t include sufficient provisions to safeguard domestic manufacturing. On the contrary, there still exist many provisions, which promote importers’ and foreign interests. SJM suggests following inclusion in Section 18 of the draft PMB 2020:
“Registration committee has the rights to refuse the registration for import of ready-made pesticides if (a) that pesticide is already registered and being manufactured in India. (b) If Committee is satisfied that alternatives are available in the country. This would promote domestic manufacturing, and save the economy from import dependence.”
2. Through amendment in rules, Central Insecticides Board (CIB) and Registration committee (RC) waived off an important safety provision in 2007. Earlier, Registration of “technical grade” and monitoring of Chemical Composition of this technical grade post registration was an integral part of Insecticide Act 1968 to ensure farmer’s safety. Waiving off of this important safety provision for importers, farmers security and environment safety were impacted as well as, domestic manufacturing. There is a need to correct this lapse in the old Act and inclusion of the following provisions in Section 18 of Draft PMB 2020. The Registration Committee shall not register a pesticide if (a) the “Technical Grade” of the pesticide is not registered in India; (b) it is satisfied that the pesticide does not meet the claims of safety or efficacy submitted by the applicant; (c) where applicable maximum residue limits of the pesticides on crops and commodities have not been specified under the Food Safety and Standards Act 2006. Inclusion of these provisions in the bill would enable regulators to withdraw the “Technical Grade” samples for monitoring the expiry and associated impurities. This would also ensure farmers’ and consumers’ security, environment and soil preservation as per the Indian standards.
3. There is a clause in Section 22(1) in the draft PMB 2020, which gives unwarranted advantage to MNCs, who generally happen to be the first registrants. This Section 22(1) needs to be deleted. There is no need to empower “First Registrant” to manipulate the registration of “Subsequent Registrants” in India.
4. Assembly and repackaging should not be equivalent to manufacturing as most of the importers are selling the imported pesticides in different brands without value addition and threatens the survival of the domestic manufacturers.
5. To regulate imports of pesticides, provision for imposition of non-tariff barriers should be made to safeguard the life of plants, animals and human being by way of legal provisions on the lines of WTO restrictions, for Sanitary and Phyto sanitary (SPS) measures and Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT).
6. To safeguard the interests of domestic manufacturers, strict provisions be made in the PMB 2020, not to allow data exclusivity to the innovator company. This would make it possible for Indian manufacturers to produce these chemicals in India, after the expiry of patent.
7. Bio-pesticides and organic/natural pesticides had been the speciality of Indian agriculture and have huge potential in modern agriculture. The proposed Act does not provide adequate recognition, legitimacy, level playing field and registration processes to these novel products. SJM firmly advocate and propose to include special framework for these safer alternatives to provide poison free food to country’s populace.
Environmental Safety, Farmers’ Heath and Soil Preservation
1. Processes of review of pesticides after registration have not been streamlined. There are other countries which review every registered pesticide periodically five years after registration, to assess the safety of the pesticide based on latest scientific evidence. Further, such a review requires an independent mechanism separate from the body that does the registration in the first instance. In the new Pesticides Management Bill 2020, registration and review are proposed to be done by the same body (Registration Committee) – the body which has registered them will not be best placed to review those pesticides itself. A separate Review Committee consisting of bio safety experts must be constituted to review pesticides, to avoid any bias.
2. A multi-ministerial, broad based body with representatives from state governments, farmers etc., in the form of Pesticide Management Board is being proposed in the new Bill, to replace the Central Insecticides Board in the extant legislation. However, it is being envisaged only as an advisory body with all regulatory authority actually vested in the Registration Committee consisting of a few technical persons. The Pesticides Management Board has to become an empowered regulatory body with oversight authority over ‘Registration Committee’ and the proposed ‘Review Committee’ as well.
3. The regulation of pesticides should be free from the influence of the pesticide industry and importers lobby to avoid possible conflict of interest. The new Bill’s provisions for prevention of conflict of interest are weak and inadequate. The provisions to prevent conflict of interest at all levels amongst all human resources involved in the regulatory regime must be strengthened (Sec. 10).
4. The new Bill misses out on many such key points; for instance, the new Bill does not specifically and mandatorily list factors such as antidote availability, transparent, independent scrutiny of information on need, alternatives and long-term comprehensive bio safety of a pesticide (the legal language used in the Bill makes such testing optional), precautionary approach being adopted based on bans in other countries.
5. Swadeshi Jagran Manch recommends that the proposed Pesticide Management Board should include independent specialists, beekeeping experts, pollinators, zoologists, marine biologist and also foreign trade experts including specialists from Director General Foreign Trade to appreciate the impact of pesticide usage on exports.
Kindly take note of our suggestions and incorporate appropriately in the PMB 2020.
Dr Ashwani Mahajan
(National Co-Convenor, SJM)