Monday, July 13, 2009

Sustainable Agriculture

The Unbearable Coolness of Pesticides homicide suicide genocide pesticide -cide suffix [Middle English, from Old French (from Latin -cida, killer), and from Latin -cidium, killing both from caedere, to strike, kill ]
For centuries, farmers around the world have spent their waking hours turning their ingenuity towards improving their crops and driving out pests. And they tried everything. Rice farmers in China kept ducks and corn farmers in Nebraska chased swarms of grasshoppers them and clubbed them to death. Nothing was completely effective and nothing was easy. But farming had never been a game for cowards.

In contemporary agriculture, however millions of farmers across the world use chemical pesticides. These chemicals are sold with the promise of efficiency seemingly taking away the drudgery of farming. These chemicals formulated in laboratories and manufactured in factories seek to replace the skill sets of farmers who would have otherwise knock together solutions that suited their land, their weather and their budget. The culture of chemical pesticides comes from the same mythic land as cures for baldness and free size garments. But unlike most free size garments or baldness cures, pesticides have done severe damage in several spheres, from ecology to community health and rural social structures.
Imaginative publicity material for pesticides, help spread the poisons.

Imaginative publicity material for pesticides, help spread the poisons.

Pesticides are poisonous substances intended to harm or kill living organisms considered as pests. Do we imagine that any substance that can kill other living organisms can not harm or kill human beings? All of us use household pesticides in one form or the other: the Baygon spray at home, mosquito repellents or rat poisons, to name only a few. However, there are also huge quantities of pesticides being used in other arenas of life: mostly in public healthcare and in agriculture.

The bottom line is that pesticides are poisons. In addition to innumerable health problems created by pesticides (as residues and as drift) to urban consumers, pesticides are proving to be fatal to farming community members too.

“Men become accustomed to poison by degrees.” Victor Hugo

Up until the turn of the twentieth century farmers were for most part subsistence farmers. And subsistence did not carry today’s stigma of poverty because all it meant was that you grew enough to feed your family and perhaps some people in your community. Post-World War II the chemical industries of Europe offered what seemed like a wonderful form of pest management. With the heavy arm of capital they made agriculture without chemicals seem a prehistoric form of life. Developing nations received ‘aid’ to buy or manufacture pesticides. Technology would be their salvation they were told.

A few decades later the big DDT scare ensured that people were more wary about the indiscriminate use of pesticides. But to millions of farmers across the world it seemed like there were no options. There was amnesia in the communities about a time when they had grown their crops without lying awake worrying about their pesticide debts.

Then like the Hindi movie heroine who falls down the waterfall and remembers her lost past, the resurgence was unexpected. Farmers woke up to an organic, less traumatic future. Sections of the scientific establishment was also ready to endorse non-chemical farming for its benefit to the environment and to health.

The fraudulent promise of ease has come into our midst. The agro-chemical industry is now a thirty billion dollar industry The new tack is Genetic engineering. Today they are saying (like many beauty pageant winners) that they would like to end world hunger. The strong arm is ready to put their logo on the source of life itself. But farmers are still dying and so are their fields. The industry is always looking for new promises to make. It is up to us to exercise caution. Greenpeace India is campaigning for ways to expose these fraudulent promises and to explore sustainable agriculture.

No comments:

Post a Comment