Monocrotophos and Other Pesticides in India and Nepal

A young female farmer handling pesticides in Bardiya district in western Nepal. 2013. Photo: Kashish Das Shrestha

A young female farmer handling pesticides in Bardiya district in western Nepal. 2013. Photo: Kashish Das Shrestha

“The pesticide that killed 23 schoolchildren last week is a nerve poison banned by many countries,” Reuters reported today. It is called Monocrotophos.The World Health Organization had asked India to ban it in 2009.

My first instinct in reading that news was to check its availability in Nepal. Because of the open border shared by India and Nepal’s farm belt, our agriculture sector largely works on agro-inputs that comes from India unofficially. For example, the official data of chemical fertilizer imported into the country from India is considered only a portion of the actual amount that comes into the country.

So I googled “pesticide monocrotophos Nepal.” It led me to the paper Use of Pesticides in Nepal and the Impacts on Human Health and Environments published in the Journal of Agriculture and Environment (Vol:13, Jun.2012). The paper’s authors are  D. R. Sharma MSc (PhD student in IAAS, Rampur, , Chitwan, Nepal), R. B. Thapa PhD (Professor, IAAS, Rampur), H. K. Manandhar PhD (Senior Scientists, Plant Pathology/Entomology Division, Nepal Agriculture Research Council), S. M. Shrestha PhD (Professor, IAAS, Rampur), and  S. B. Pradhan PhD (Senior Scientists, Plant Pathology/Entomology Division, Nepal Agriculture Research Council).

Monocrotophos is Banned In Nepal:

Then I searched the word “monocrotophos” on the document.  The first mention of the word was in a table (pictured below) that listed banned pesticides in Nepal.

Nepal banned monocrotophos in July 2006 – three years before the WHO recommended India ban the stuff. In fact, the 2012 paper also notes this: India has banned 28 pesticides and those do not include highly hazardous pesticides like monocrotophos.

Then I googled “buying monocrotophos in india.” The first result was a link to an online website IndiaMart.com which lists many vendors selling this pesticide.  Below, a screen shot of the website.

A screenshot of IndiaMart.com.

A screenshot of IndiaMart.com.

 

A Toxic Dip:

The Journal of Agriculture and Environment paper describes the trend of pesticide use in Nepal this way:

“Farmers generally do not follow the pre-harvest waiting period. They apply pesticides near harvesting time, and some farmers even dip vegetables in pesticides before selling (Dahal, 1995; Sharma, 2011).”

And the pesticide market in Nepal is grimly described like this:

“Unregistered and illegal products, open air sales, sales of banned products, cases of decanting and reweighing, fake pest control products using counterfeit labels, sales of expired products with modified expiry dates are among the misuse cases that have been reported in Nepal.”

Conclusion?

So how good should Nepalis feel about the fact that monocrotophos and several other pesticides are banned in Nepal? The paper’s authors conclude this:

“Banned and highly hazardous pesticides have been used without any precautionary measures. Exposure of farm families to pesticides and intake of pesticides by consumers are a major health threat. Biotic and abiotic systems have been affected entirely.”

The paper is worth reading in its entirety.

Sales pitch on the website of one of the Indian vendors.

Sales pitch on the website of one of the Indian vendors.

What You Can Do:

According to the Department of Analytical Chemistry at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES), “a three-year study showed that rinsing under tap water significantly reduced residues of nine of the twelve pesticides examined across fourteen commodities. Four fruit and vegetable wash products were found to be no more effective at removing eight of nine pesticide residues from produce than either a 1% solution of dishwashing liquid or rinsing under tap water alone for three commodities studied”

Read their paper here. 

The Colorado State University advises this on washing: “Washing produce before storing may promote bacterial growth and speed up spoilage, so it is often recommended to wait and wash fruits and vegetables just before use. Generally, soil has been removed from fresh produce but if not and you chose to wash before storing, dry thoroughly with clean paper towels before storing.”

According to the website Good Green Habits, there is a quick way to ensure you get rid of a good amount of the pesticide residue that night be on your fruits and vegetables by simply washing them in a water and vinegar mix.

The website lists the steps this way:

  • Fill a bowl with water and add 1/8 to 1/2 cup of vinegar, depending on the size of your bowl.
  • Place your fruits and veggies in the bowl.
  • Soak for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Rinse with water.

Read the entire page here. 

You can also read up on how to get rid of pesticides from your fruits and vegetables on the Center for Science and Environment’s website here.

Another helpful read is this page on the World’s Healthiest Food website here.

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