Switch Over To Organic Farming Needed in India (23/8/2004)


"There are two options available for getting out of the crisis of food production in the Punjab. One is to continue down the road of further intensification; the other is to make food production economically and ecologically viable again, by reducing input costs. Sadly, the Indian government appears to have adopted the former strategy, seeking to solve the problems of the first Green Revolution by launching a second." - Vandana Shiva, 1991 (item 2)

1.'Excessive Use Of Pesticides Led To Cancer Deaths'
2.The Green Revolution in the Punjab

1.Switch Over To Organic Farming Needed
'Excessive Use Of Pesticides Led To Cancer Deaths'
Financial Express
New Delhi, Aug 22

A study conducted by the Chandigarh based Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) on behalf of the Punjab government has once again revealed that excessive use of chemical pesticides is the cause of a series of deaths due to cancer in Talwandi block in Bhatinda district in Punjab.

Bhatinda district which is irrigated by canal water grows largely cotton and rice crop and is infamous for excessive use of chemical pesticides.

The PGIMER study conducted under the leadership of Prof Rajesh Kumar, head of the department of community medicine, cytology and gynecological pathology confirms the findings of the earlier two studies conducted by the local NGO, Kheti Virasat - one by solely by its own and another in collaboration with Greenpeace India. Kheti Virast is convincing farmers to switch over to organic Farming.

The IPIMER study compared Talwandi saboo in Bhatinda district with the controlled area, Chamkaur Sahib in Ropar district. The study covered a poulation of 85315 in Talwandi Saboo and 97928 in Chamkaur Sahib. A total of 7,441 deaths were recorded in the last 10 years (1993-2003). Age adjusted cancer death rate per 1,00,000 population per year at Talwandi Sahib was 51.2 while that at Chamkaur Sahib was 30.3. Age adjusted prevalance of confirmed cancer cases per 1,00,000 was 125.4 in Talwandi Saboo and 72.5 in Chamkaur Sahib. Five most common sites in the categories of confirmed cancer cases were breast, uterus, leukemia/lymphoma, oesophagus, skin and ovary.

There were 107 confirmed cancer cases in Talwandi Saboo out of which 27 were males and 80 were females. There were 71 confirmed cases of cancer deaths in Chamkaur Sahib out of which 25 were males and 46 were females. Crude death rate in Talwandi Saboo was 4.48 as compared to 3.69 per 1000 in Chamkaur Sahib.

The study also found presence of arsenic, chromium, nickle and iron in ground water in both Talwandi Saboo and Chamkaur Sahib. In tap water there were presence of chromium, mercury and high level of iron. Arsenic, chromium and mercury are known carcinogens. Heptachlor is a known carcinogen found in ground water and tap water in both places. In samples of vegetable presence of pesticide residues like heptachlor, chlopyrifos, aldrin, heptachlor endoepoxide, alpha-endosulfan, dieldrin, alphaHCH were found in Talwandi Saboo while in Chamkaur Sahib presence of heptachlor, chlorpyrifos, beta HCH, gamma HCH, delta HCH were found.

Comparatively the study done by Kheti Virast revealed that in Punjab in general the groundwater tables have depleted from 15-20 feet to 150-200 feet in many parts of the state on account of excessive exploitation without adequate recharge through water havesting. The number of tubewells in the state rose from 55,000 to one million as of date. Many traditional water harvesting structure including village ponds, natural reservoirs and wetlands have been either converted into farm lands, market places or residential houses.

In Punjab out of the 138 groundwater blocks, as many as 84 are declared as dark zones and 16 are grey zones. The fate of the remaining 38 white zone is also critical as many of them are contaminated by residues of pesticides, fertiliers and industrial wastes. The white zone area of Bathinda, Mansa, Mukatsar, Faridkot and some parts of Ferozpur are contaminated with salinty and cholride, whereas Nawanshahar and Hosiharpur districts have problems of selenium contamination. The groundwater in serval parts of the state is contaminated with nitrates. Nickel and chromium contamination in groundwater is reported in Ludhiana and Mandi Gobindgarh.

Kheti Virasat study also revealed adverse effects of excessive use of pesticides on health and environment in Bhatinda district. The study team selected three villages in Bhatinda district where the pesticides use is maximum. The study noted incidence of cancer, kidney failure, yellowing of teeth, joint pain, breathing problem, skin disorders on several victims. Children were marked with congenital defects like mental retardation. There
were complains of abortions, abnormal births and jaundice during pregnancy. Kheti Virasat conducted a similar study in collaboration with Greenpeace India in the cotton belt in Punjab.

2.The Green Revolution in the Punjab
By Vandana Shiva
From The Ecologist, Vol. 21, No. 2 (1991)

The Green Revolution has been a failure. It has led to reduced genetic diversity, increased vulnerability to pests, soil erosion, water shortages, reduced soil fertility, micronutrient deficiencies, soil contamination, reduced availability of nutritious food crops for the local population, the displacement of vast numbers of small farmers from their land, rural impoverishment and increased tensions and conflicts. The beneficiaries have been the agrochemical industry, large petrochemical companies, manufacturers of agricultural machinery, dam builders and large landowners.

The "miracle" seeds of the Green Revolution have become mechanisms for breeding new pests and creating new diseases.

In 1970, Norman Borlaug was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in developing high-yielding varieties (HYVs) of wheat. The "Green Revolution", launched by Borlaug’s "miracle seeds", is often credited with having transformed India from "a begging bowl to a bread basket", and the Punjab is frequently cited as the Green Revolution's most celebrated success story. Yet, far from bringing prosperity, two decades of the Green Revolution have left the Punjab riddled with discontent and violence. Instead of abundance, the Punjab is beset with diseased soils, pest-infested crops, waterlogged deserts and indebted and discontented farmers. Instead of peace, the Punjab has inherited conflict and violence.


It has often been argued that the Green Revolution provided the only way in which India (and, indeed, the rest of the Third World) could have increased food availability. Yet, until the 1960s, India was successfully pursuing an agricultural development policy based on strengthening the ecological base of agriculture and the self-reliance of peasants. Land reform was viewed as a political necessity and, following independence, most states initiated measures to secure tenure for tenant cultivators, to fix reasonable rents and to abolish the zamindari (landlord) system. Ceilings on land holdings were also introduced. In 1951, at a seminar organized by the Ministry of Agriculture, a detailed farming strategy—the "land transformation" programme — was put forward. The strategy recognized the need to plan from the bottom, to consider every individual village and sometimes every individual field. The programme achieved major successes. Indeed, the rate of growth of total crop production was higher during this period than in the years following the introduction of the Green Revolution.

However, while Indian scientists and policy makers were working out self-relia

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