Ever wondered why our fruits suddenly look a fake colour, are available off season and why the size suddenly seems to increase almost overnight? The answer is simple. The use of pesticides can do this magic. But with a lot of risks involved.
Aamir Khan on yesterday’s episode (24th June 2012) of Satyamev Jayate asked this very same question: is the food we eat safe? In shocking revelations, the answer seemed to become more and more obvious. What we consume in terms of fruits, vegetables and grains is hazardous! The overdose of pesticides sprayed in farms leads to an increase in health problems that have a long lasting effect.
In a survey done by Dr Rashmi Sanghi, she found out that a mother’s milk contains 800% more of a poison called endo sulphan that is present in foods that are infested with pesticides.
Aamir and his entire team presented a very well researched topic that was highly debatable: organic farming vs. use of pesticides in our food crops. In Kasargud area in Kerala, for 25 years helicopters have been spraying the harmful pesticide endo sulphan leaving more than 5000 people seriously ill, deformed and causing them to suffer from various medical conditions including miscarriages and cancer.
It’s a sorry plight for our Indian farmers who are the real victims. They are forced to buy pesticides, often incurring heavy debts eventually leading to their suicide. Why is this so? Because farmers are told that without the use of pesticides, yields will decrease and they will be paid a lower price for their produce. Use of pesticide is slow poisoning! So how did the problem start? Jarnail Singh, a farmer from Punjab is of the opinion that till the 1960s and 70s, all was well. With the introduction of the green revolution, came the chemicals and spray.
Often vendors are encouraged to increase the sell of pesticides and are lured with heavy benefits in exchange. So where a crop needs a small dose of pesticide, vendors sell extra and thus the poor farmer ends up harming his crop. To oppose this view was Dr. Raju Shroff of Untied Phosphorous who went on to say that the use of pesticides is not harmful. He further stated that without pesticides, crops would get spoilt and there would be a decrease in production. He is perhaps the most ridiculous guest on the show so far. He even said that a pesticide being harmful was an exaggerated and repeated lie, one that he would prove false. But the scariest part he revealed was that there is really no official body that checks the quality of foods produced in our country.
Punjab alone consumes 15-18% of pesticides in the country. The saddest part was to watch the Bhatinda Bikaner cancer train where patients suffering from cancer went for checkups to the cancer hospital in Bikaner. What was the cause behind their cancer? Pesticides!
Aamir also supports the method of organic farming and feels it is the only solution to our food problem. By adopting the method of organic farming and with the use of simple techniques, insects can be trapped and this also proves to be cost effective and easy to avail. And the state of Sikkim leads by example. The government of Sikkim has decided to adopt organic farming and make Sikkim and organic state by 2015 (in terms of agricultural and farming methods). This has many benefits as the demand for such foods will increase, leading to an increase in the price of the produce. In order to implement this dream, the government of Sikkim is educating farmers on the benefits of organic farming.
Dr GV Ramanjaneyulu (Agricultural scientist) is also a shining example who guides farmers in Andhra Pradesh. He teaches them organic farming in a cheap and cost effective way. Aamir has done intensive research by interviewing famers, social activists and manufacturers of fertilizers, giving a two sided perspective. His question is simple: should we follow Sikkim’s example in aiding our farmers to follow the organic farming module? And as citizens, how can we ensure that the foods we eat are safe? The only solution is to buy food from organic stores which is often considered expensive. A member from the audience raised as interesting question. When we pay for things without hesitating, why do we cry in paying 10 rupees extra for organic foods?
Kudos to Aamir for forcing us to think, stop and question. But most importantly, for awakening us to take action!