Vijayawada: The mystery illness affecting several people at Eluru in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh has led to experts demanding the promotion of organic fertilisers and pesticides to cultivate crops, mainly vegetables.
A large number of tenant farmers take small farm land holdings on lease to raise vegetable crops, including leafy vegetables. As their harvest period is relatively less, they go for multiple crops in a year. Given the high demand for vegetables and their vulnerability to infections from pests, the overprotective farmers spray several varieties of pesticides without any control. This is resulting in high concentration of pesticides in vegetables.
For instance, cabbage and cauliflower are vulnerable to pests. Farmers keep spraying pesticides on them to protect the crop without following any protocol. There is a crop-wise norm for using pesticides. They cannot be sprayed if the crop is to be harvested in 10 to 15 days. Farmers do not comply with any norms irrespective of their ill-effects on consumers as they want their crop to be sold for a good price.
As leafy vegetables like spinach, coriander, mint, etc., and others are also more vulnerable to get infested with pests, farmers use pesticides indiscriminately. When people fail to wash and cook them properly, the residues of pesticides find their way into the human body affecting their health depending on the concentration levels. So is the case with chillies which are more vulnerable for pests and viruses and are subject to indiscriminate use of pesticides. Farmers use pesticides rampantly on vegetables like brinjal and okra.
Some farmers even raise vegetable crops in marshy lands with water sourced from canals that carry polluted water discharged from untreated effluents from industries, civic bodies and processing units of fish and shrimps in some parts of the state. This causes deposit of high concentrations of harmful chemicals on them and they will affect health of consumers.
Dr YSR Horticulture University, director of research Dr R.V.S.K. Reddy said, “It is true that some farmers are using pesticides indiscriminately on certain varieties of vegetables to protect them from infestation. However, there is a need to promote usage of organic fertilisers and pesticides in a big way by educating the farmers to avoid health problems to their consumers.”
West Godavari agriculture joint director Dr Gausia Begum said, “We have been educating the farmers to strictly follow the guidelines on usage of pesticides during cultivation of crops to avoid their harmful impact on health of the consumers in addition to advising them to use organic fertilisers and pesticides.”
On the other hand, consumption of pesticide has come down to 1,738.20 metric tonnes when gross area sown in was 76.71 lakh hectares in 2017-18 to 4,253.06 metric tonnes in area of 81.27 lakh hectares in 2013-14 in all 13 districts in AP.
Agriculture commissioner H. Arun Kumar said, “The quantum of usage of pesticides for cultivation of crops by farmers is coming down as a series of awareness programmes are being taken up on their proper usage. We have yet to get scientific evidence on presence of pesticide residues on vegetables and their impact on health of the people with reference to mystery illness at Eluru.”
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