Bharath Jairaj, CAG, India Household Pesticides and the Indifferent Consumer
Consumers encounter pesticides in various forms and meant for various purposes in everyday life.
India is home to several thousand species of pests – known to be the cause for spread of many diseases
Consumers and governments grab the closest (easily accessible) and most severe (potent) form of pest killers available to deal with the pest problem
These pesticides are as dangerous to humans as the pests
Known Pest Management Techniques
Physical / mechanical methods – oldest system (traps, insect screens and nets, baits, plant guards, etc.)
Biological methods – use of parasites, predators etc.
Natural alternatives including organic methods and homemade pesticides with minimal health impacts
Chemical control mechanisms – including organic substances like pyretheum and inorganic derivatives of mercury, sulphur, arsenic etc. and synthetic compounds.
Majority of pesticides used today are chemical pesticides and synthetic compounds.
Variety of attractively packaged ‘easy-to-use’ products are available in the supermarket and local grocery
Unregulated marketing and advertising suggests to the consumer that she can buy, store, handle, use and dispose – without any care or concern (e.g. advertisement showing happy baby asleep because mosquito killer is being used)
Some regulations mandate safety warnings and labels – information on active ingredients, directions for ‘safe use’, poisoning symptoms, first aid instructions, but who enforces this?
Is Consumer Ministry involved at all? And do consumers read such labels or follow advertising?
Is ‘safe use’ of chemical pesticides possible?
Areas for more work
Analysis of existing legal frameworks – if narcotics and tobacco advertising is regulated, how can advertising and selling poisons be so easy?
Survey and analysis of regulatory institutions – who is supposed to be looking at what? (multiple agencies with overlapping functions?)
Reliability of ‘alternatives’ – are we sure we are not promoting other toxics? Need to ‘quality mark’ alternatives
Massive effort needed to get more consumers and consumer groups informed and involved
Enhancing Consumer Awareness
Massive campaign on consumer education is required – especially children and adolescents
Campaigns to make schools and universities ‘pesticide free’
Documenting and exposing misleading claims and ‘greenwash’ of pesticide advertising and marketing
Better understanding of what kind of consumer information is required on the products – for e.g., is it realistic to expect consumers to decipher chemical names of active ingredients?
Do we need country-specific labels / symbols? E.g. success of ‘green dot’ – ‘red dot’ food labelling in India
What about toxic-free homes?
Household pesticides is one aspect of toxic use at home
Also present in paints, detergents, cleaning agents, batteries, CFL’s, etc.
Recent study in India confirms presence of several chemicals and toxins in toys – including cadmium and lead.
Long battle ahead!!
Pesticide manufacturers are famous for filing strategic law suits and defamation cases to fatigue campaigners. Examples from around the world – Philippines, India etc.
It is important for campaigners to anticipate this and therefore join hands in a global campaign
What can consumer groups do?
Consumers as a group are capable of designing government policy – but consumers have remained silent for too long on the issue of household toxics.
Consumers must become more aware of the hazards and dangers of synthetic pesticides and other household chemicals and use our power of choice to stop buying and using them
Must join hands with local environmental, anti-toxics and health groups and lobby government to ensure a phase-out of these products from our homes
Join hands with the Consumers Korea, PAN-AP, CI global campaign!
THANK YOU! For more information contact: [email_address]