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Understanding pesticide industry – Global and India Exports and imports from India

Written By Krishna on Friday, March 08, 2013 | 3:22 AM

At a Workshop on Pesticides and Food Safety in Bangalore on March 7, 2013,  Gopal Krishna,  Toxic Watch Alliance, New Delhi gave a lecture on 'Understanding pesticide industry – Global and India Exports and imports from India'. The note prepared for the lectures is reproduced below. 

In theory, pesticides are used on the assumption that it doesn’t harm people's health, it as no unacceptable effects on the environment and it is effective against pests. But in practice people are afraid of the food they eat and the water they drink because food chain poisoning due to pesticide consumption has become quite widespread. 

Globally  as well as nationally pesticides industry cannot be understood without comprehending the disaster at the pesticides factory of Union Carbide Corporation in Bhopal. After the disaster, the Insecticides Board cancelled the registration for the manufacture of pesticides at the factory on January 15, 1984.  Since then Union Ministry of Chemicals has been mentioning how it is responding to the aftermath of the disaster in its Annual reports. It finds mention in its annual report of 2011-12 as well although many environmental organisations who claimed to work on the issue forgot about it.  Key destination markets for Indian exports of agrochemicals are "USA, U.K., France, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, South Africa, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Singapore. India is one of the most dynamic generic pesticide manufacturers in the world with more than 60 technical grade pesticides being manufactured indigenously by 125 producers consisting of large and medium scale enterprises (including about 10 multinational companies) and more than 500 pesticide formulators spread over the country."  

Under the Insecticides Act, 1968, the Central Insecticide Board  had a key role to play in ensuring the implementation of safety standards in the Bhopal pesticide plant of Union Carbide Corporation (UCC)'s subsidiary but it failed to perform its role.  The UCC’s plant was manufacturing an insecticide. It was within the purview of the Insecticide Act. The Central Government had a role in regulating the plant. The members of the Central Insecticide Board under the Insecticide Act, should have been made liable for criminal negligence.

The Union Carbide Corporation's factory got the industrial license under the Registration and Licensing of Industrial Undertakings Rules, 1952 under Industries (Development and Regulation) Act, 1951 to manufacture MIC based pesticides. 

Under these Rules the Central Government a Committee, consisting of members dealing with (i) the industry specified in the First Schedule to the Act; (ii) Finance; (iii) Science and Technology; (iv) Environment, Forests and Wildlife; (v) Small Scale Industries and other co-opted members examines the application for industrial license and submits its report to submit a report to the Ministry of Industrial Development (currently to  Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion, Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry, which was created in 1995 and has been reconstituted in the year 2000 with the merger of the Department of Industrial Development.).  After the liberalisation of the industrial licensing regime, only 6 categories of industries require industrial licensing under the Industries (Development and Regulation) Act, 1951.  The members of the committee who approved the granting of industrial license to UCC's plant should be made liable for their acts of omission and commission. 

If precedents of holding regulators accountable for their approvals and reports does not get established in the matter of disaster in the Bhopal pesticides factory, it will be difficult to regulate the pesticides industry.  

Pesticides industry is a subset of chemicals industry which in turn is a subset of hazardous industries. The global turnover of the chemical industry is more than three trillion US dollars. The Indian Chemical Industry ranks 12 by volume in the world production of chemicals. With the current size of approximately $108 billion, the Indian chemical industry accounts for about 3% of the global chemical industry.” By 2017, the India’s Planning Commission estimates that it could reach the size of $224 billion or $290 billion (about 6% of global industry). Indian chemical industry accounts for approximately 7% of Indian GDP. The share of industry in national exports is around 11%. In terms of volume, India is the third-largest producer of chemicals in Asia, after China and Japan. In value terms the size of the Indian pesticide industry alone was $3.8 billion in the year 2011 that produces even those pesticides which are banned in the developed countries. 
 The global pesticides industry is worth 44 billion US dollars as per 2008-9 statistics.   It is estimated that it will reach 68.5 billion US dollars in 2017. Some 1100 chemical pesticides are used globally. The core question is how to regulate and make the holders of the chemicals and pesticides, the corporations liable.   

In the US  the regulation of chemical pesticides is done under Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), 1947 which has undergone several amendments. In 1970s, US President Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and shifted control of pesticide regulation from US Department of Agriculture and Department of Food and Drugs Administration to the EPA, which was created for this purpose. 

In Europe, national legislation are being replaced by European Community legislation for  regulating the marketing and use of plant protection products and their residues in food. European Council Directive 91/414/EEC concerning the placing of plant protection products on the market lays down rules and procedures for approval of the active substances at EU-level and for the authorisation at Member State level of plant protection products (PPPs) containing these substances. 

The Directive states that substances cannot be used in plant protection products unless they are included in a positive EU list. Once a substance is included in the positive list Member States may authorise the use of products containing them. Pesticides residues in food are regulated by Regulation (EC) No 396/2005. The legislation covers the setting, monitoring and control of pesticides residues in products of plant and animal origin that may arise from their use in plant protection.

The maximum levels set are those consistent with good agricultural practice in Member States and third countries. The levels are set after an evaluation of any risks to consumers of different age groups and they are only set if they are considered safe. Nonetheless, MRLs exceedences are closely monitored, evaluated and communicated to the authorities in the Member States through the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed whenever there is a potential risk to consumers. Both Directive 91/414 on the placing on the market of plant protection products and Regulation 396/2005 on pesticide residues in food and feed aim at a high level of protection of human health and the environment. 

India’s pesticide market, long stifled by various government controls and poor demand, is projected to
more than double to $5 billion by 2017.  India’s per capita pesticide consumption of 600 gm. Its consumption 14 kg in China and 12 kg in Japan. Indian pesticide industry is producing more than1,000 tons of pesticides annually. India is the 13th largest exporter of pesticides and disinfectants in the world, and in terms of volume, is the 12th largest producer of chemicals. 

Pesticide companies like United Phosphorus, Rallis and Excel are the major Indian players.Multinational companies like Hoechst, Agrevo, Novartis, Bayer etc has significant share in the market.

The 35 page Pesticides Management Bill, 2008 is listed for re-introduction in the current Budget Session. It was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on October 21, 2008 for replacing the existing Insecticides Act, 1968. The Standing Committee on Agriculture gave its 43 page report to the Parliament on February 18, 2009.  It remains to be seen whether the Union Cabinet has incorporated recommendation of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture seeking inclusion of pesticides used in health care under the definition of pesticides.

Among many objectionable provision the provision regarding speedy registration of pesticides in case of national emergency, urgency or public interest stands out and must be removed. The Bill provides for establishment of a Central Pesticides Board, Registration Committee, Central Pesticides Laboratory , Licencing Officer, Pesticide Inspectors and Pesticide Analysts. 

It is aimed at effective regulation of import, manufacture, export, sale, transport, distribution and use of pesticides, to prevent risk to human beings, animals, or environment, categorization of offences and punishments for greater deterrence to violators and timely disposal of time-barred pesticides in an environmentally safe manner.  As per the Bill, no pesticide can be registered unless tolerance limits for its residues on crops and commodities are specified under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006. It establishes a procedure to licence manufacturers, distributors and retailers of pesticides, to be administered by state governments.  Pesticide inspectors shall inspect facilities and collect pesticide samples while pesticide analysts shall test the samples collected. But what is noteworthy is that the relevant provisions of the Food Safety and Standards Act are yet to come into force. 

The Bill defines a pesticide as a substance of chemical or biological origin intended to destroy or control the spread of any pests in agricultural commodities or animal feeds. Pesticides used to control pests in non-agricultural settings (other than households) may not be covered by this definition, leaving such substances unregulated. The preamble of the Bill aims to regulate pesticides “with a view to control pests”,but does not restrict this to agriculture only. The Insecticides Act, 1968 covers substances used outside agriculture. 

Section 27.of the Bill deals with the powers pf the Customs. It reads, "Notwithstanding anything contained in section 26, any customs officer, shall on his own volition or on receiving a written complaint about unlawful import or export of any pesticide also have the powers of a Pesticide Inspector, specified under section 26 and take action as per provisions of this Act."  

The capacity of the National Customs and the role of World Customs Organisation (WCO) in combating environmental crime is quite relevant in this regard because it helps enforce the Basel Convention on the Control of Trans-boundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal; the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutions (POPs); the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade which are germane to the Bill. The WCO and its Green Customs Initiative assist countries with the development of a comprehensive action plan to combat illegal trafficking of hazardous material and their waste. 

The Billl has been facing resistance from companies which are keen on data protection on pesticides.  

It should not be forgotten that the need for inventory of chemicals in the country with the their environmental and health impacts remains unaddressed.   

As a meek acknowledgement, government is promoting research on the use of alternative and unharmful pesticides using Neem seeds. A country programme entitled "Development and Production of Neem Products as Environment Friendly Pesticides" is being undertaken by the Department of Chemicals &Petrochemicals with the financial assistance ofUnited Nations Development Programme (UNDP)/United Nations Industrial Development Organization. The project is being implemented at two locations viz., Nimpith in West Bengal and Nagpur in Maharashtra to promote production, processing and use of neem-based products. It is meant to provide farmers with eco-friendly/bio-degradable pesticides. 
Besides focusing on hazardous substances like chemical pesticides, there is a need to pay greater attention to the corporate structure which acts as their receptacle and promoter and the  quid pro quo relationship that exists between the regulator and the regulated due to corporate donations to political parties.  

In the campaign against hazardous pesticides, there is an urgent need to start legislative engagement with regard to hazard assessment, dose-response assessment, exposure assessment and risk categorization quite early in the efforts to make g pesticides companies subservient to the legislative will. There is a poverty of legal imagination. When hazardous chemicals enter our body why is that the companies responsible are not held criminally liable. 
The rule established in Rylands v Fletcher case in UK on July 17, 1868 that "the person who for his own purpose brings on his lands and collects and keeps there anything likely to do mischief, if it escapes, must keep it in at his peril, and if he does not do so, is prima facie answerable for all the damage which is the natural consequence of its escape". It imposed strict liability on without having to prove a duty of care or negligence. 

There is a crying need for legal and medical remedy from chemical trespass which is defined as the involuntary introduction of toxic chemicals into the human body of the present and future generations.

The other speakers at the workshop included  Dr Reyes Tirado University of Exeter, UK, Dr Muralidharan, SACON, Dr. Peter E. Kenmore, FAO, Kavitha Kuruganti, Savvy Soumya Mishra, Jiangli, Food & Agriculture Campaigner, Greenpeace China, Jayakumar , Thanal, Pesticide Action Network, Umendra Dutt,  Executive Director, Kheti Virasat Mission, Punjab.  

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