EDITORIAL: Pesticides kill

One of the best ways to discourage overuse of pesticides is educating farmers about their negative impact on human health and environment

Overuse of pesticides and harmful chemicals in fruits and vegetables has caused negative impact on human health, and such unchecked practice has also led to degradation of soil fertility. The fruits and vegetables imported from India and grown within the country have been found to have contained high amount of pesticides and other harmful chemicals. Consumption of such fruits and vegetables leads to long-term health risk. The overuse of pesticides in agricultural products may lead to brain, lung and breast cancers; kidney disease and neurological problems. The farmers and workers who handle such harmful pesticides and chemicals may experience acute abdominal pain, dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting as well as skin and eye problems. Most of the farmers who use them do not know how to handle them and how much amount they need to use to control crop diseases. Whatever plant quarantine labs the government has set up at various customs points have remained dysfunctional.

In a bid to discourage the increased use of such pesticides and harmful chemicals in fruits and vegetables, the government is preparing a guideline to determine their maximum residue limit. As per the recommendation of the Ministry of Commerce (MoC) last week, the Food Security, Agricultural Business and Environment Division at the Ministry of Agricultural Development (MoAD) has started homework to set up upper limits of pesticides in fruits and vegetables. MoAD Spokesperson Yogendra Karki said the ministry is studying different measures to bring the use of pesticides and harmful chemicals within the limit to be set by the ministry. It may be noted that the ministry had also set up pesticide residue testing laboratory at Kalimati-based fruits and vegetable market in 2015. It had also planned to set up such labs in Butwal, Nepalgunj, Pokhara, Narayangadh and Biratnagar. The Kalimati-based lab, however, failed to function due to fierce opposition.

One of the best ways to discourage overuse of pesticides, harmful chemicals and chemical fertilisers is educating the farmers about their negative impact on human health and local environment. The farmers need to be made aware of the fact that it is they who will be the first victims of such pesticides and chemicals and that fertility of their land will also degrade in the long-run. They are lured into using the harmful chemicals for the sake of short-term benefits. The MoAD and MoC have decided to promote good agriculture practices and integrated pest management standards in food and set up plant quarantine labs at different customs points to control the food items from containing high residue of pesticides. The government must promote organic farming, offering a number of incentives and transferring skills that can help the farmers grow healthy, hygienic and more food even without using any kinds of pesticides and chemicals. Greenhouse and tunnel farming are some of the instances that are gaining momentum recently in the adjoining districts of the Kathmandu Valley. The use of compost manure is the best way to increase fertility of soil and productivity. Consumers should also know if they are consuming food or pesticides.

Don’t smoke

The Kathmandu Metropolitan City has forwarded a plan to strictly control purchase, sale and consumption of tobacco or smoking in public places in an attempt to promote healthier lifestyle. According to “Non-communicable Disease Risk Factor: STEPS Survey Nepal 2013”, 30.5 per cent of the total population of the country smoke or consume tobacco and 15 per cent of total women are smokers. Smoking is a major risk factor for lung cancer.

This is, however, not the first time such initiative of banning smoking in public places has been taken. The government in 2011 had imposed a ban on smoking in public places like government offices, educational institutes, health facilities, recreational parks, transportation hubs, hotels, department stores and religious places. The ban, however, is not fully implemented. The KMC says as per its plan, shops within a distance of 100 metres from academic institutions and hospitals will not be allowed to sell tobacco products. This is also a good move. But only time will tell how effectively the KMC implements its plan. The plan will go up in smoke if the authorities fail to implement it effectively.