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Food Security In India… A Herculean Task Without Using Pesticide In Agriculture

Food Security In India… A Herculean Task Without Using Pesticide In Agriculture

The combined effort of the Green Revolution has allowed world food production to double in the past 50 years. From 1960 to present, the human population has more than doubled to reach seven billion people. In 2050, the population is projected to increase by 30% to about 9.2 billion. Due to increase by 30% to about 9.2 billion. Due to increasing global population and changing diets in developing countries towards high quality food, demand for food production is projected to increase by 70% (FAO 2009).

Globally, an average of 35% of potential crop yield is lost to pre-harvest pests (Oerke 2005). In addition to the pre-harvest loss, food chain losses are also relatively high. Crop plants must compete with 30,000 species of weeds, 3,000 species of namatodes and 10,000 species of plant eating insects and numerous disease causing pathogens. At the same time, agriculture has to meet at a global level a rising demand for food, feed, fibre, biofuel and other bio-based commodities with limited resources. To make agriculture more productive and profitable in the face of rising costs and rising standards of human and environmental health, the best combination of available technologies has to be used. Much of the increases in yield per unit of area can be attributed to more efficient control of (biotic) stress rather then an increase in yield potential. The reduction of current yield losses caused by pests, pathogens and weeds are major challenges to agricultural production (Oerke and Dehne 2004).

The Beneficial outcome from use of pesticides provides evidence that pesticides will continue to be a vital tool in the diverse range of technologies that can maintain and improve living standards for the people of the world. From the time when syntheitic pesticides were developed after World War II, there have been major increases in agricultural productivity accompanied by an increase in efficiency, with fewer farmers on fewer farms producing more food for more people. Agricultural productivity has improved greatly in the past century, and particularly the past 50 years. Consider that while the world population more than double in the past 50 year, per capita food production increased: today, more than 6 billion people consume a daily average of 2,700 kcals per person compared to the daily average of 2,450 kcals consumed by each of the 2.5 million people in 1950 (WHO/FAO 2003) in each of the past four decades, per capita crop and livestock production increased by roughly 0.5 percent (FAO 2004). The significant gains in productivity can be largely attributed to improved crop varieties, new irrigation and harvesting technologies, and to developments in chemical fertilizers and obviously pesticides.

Increased agricultural pesticides use nearly double food crop harvests from 42% of the theoretical worldwide yield in 1965 to 70% of the theoretical yield by 1990. Unfortunately, 30% of the theoretical yield was still being lost because the use of effective pest-management methods was not applied uniformly around the world and it still is not. Without pesticides, 70% of crop yields could have been lost to pests (Oerke, 2005).

Agriculture is the lynchpin of the Indian economy and contributes nearly 18% to country’s GDP. Today, India has achieved a fivefold increase in food grain production, to an all-time record of 257.4 million tons in 2011-12. Ensuring food security for more than 1.27 bn Indian populations with diminishing cultivable land resource is a herculean task. A number of factors take a heavy toll on the agricultural produce including insect pests, diseases, weeds, rodents etc. It is estimated that losses due to these factors account to Rs. 90,000 crore as reported by the 37the Standing Committee of the Ministry of chemicals & fertilizers in the year 2002. In the process of protecting the crops from such damages and achieving the largest, pesticides play in important role in Indian agriculture. The use of pesticides is so common that the term pesticides is often treated as synonymous with plant protection product. Undoubtedly, This has increased crop yield and reduced post-harvest losses. It is estimated that on an average one rupee spent on pesticide use gives an ROI of approximately five rupees (IARI,2008). Now as the cultivable land becomes as scarce and inelastic commodity, due to population growth, the situation will be aggravated in the years to come especially in highly populated countries like India and China. The use of pesticide in India is lowest (0.57Kg/ha) among all the developed and most of the developing countries (Japan – 11.0 Kg; Netherlands – 9.4Kg; Italy – 4.17Kg; Germany – 2.5Kg; Austria – 2.4Kg USA – 2.25Kg and Pakistan – 1.3Kg per hectare). It may be noted that, US is known to be most health conscious country, bus as is scientifically required, per hectare use of pesticides in USA is nearly four times higher that of India and the productivity of all crops in that country is much higher than India.

It is important in the present context to mention that the Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India has set-up a Division “Monitoring of Pesticide Residues at National Level”, which continuously monitors pesticides residue in fruits and vegetables available in the markets across the country. A scheme implemented by Government of India draws random samples of food articles regularly and takes penal action in cases where the samples are found not conforming to the provisions of Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006.

It needs to be understood that ‘Pesticide Residues’ are inevitable by-product of pesticides use. They are specified substances in food, agricultural commodities or animal feed resulting from the use of pesticides. The term includes the derivatives of a pesticides such as conversion products, metabolities and reaction products which are considered to be of toxicological significance. What is important is that the pesticides residue must not be above the prescribed limit of MRL, i.e., Maximum Residue Limit.

However in India, some people and institutions are still calling of for non-use of pesticides for raising crops as they have a serious effect on public health. Thus it is these emotional have left the public confused regarding the role of pesticides in agriculture. Pesticides have also been scientific facts do not support this conjecture as well. Not even one pesticide product is listed as a human cancer causing chemical in Group I in the Registry of International Agency on Research on Cancer (IARC). Pesticides and Pharmaceuticals products are manufactured under strict quality control guidelines of the Government of India. As the medicines are for control of diseases in human beings, the pesticides are for control of pests (insects and diseases) on plants. Even some pharmaceuticals and pesticides have commonality, for example streptocycline sulphate, and tetracycline.

Finally, to cope up with the growing food and nutritional demand of India, we should not get swayed by mere conjectures against pesticide use in agriculture. The bottom lines is that we cannot do away with chemical pesticides in today’s growing world to protect agricultural commodities from target insects, diseases and weeds for meeting the severe challenge on food front. Nanning pesticides use for agriculture on mere assumptions will be very much against the much called – for growth of agriculture and food security in India.


  • FAO (2009) Feeding the world in 2050. World agricultural summit on food security 16-18 November 2009. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome.
  • Oerke EC (2005) Crop losses to pests. J Agr Sci 144:31-43. Doi: 10.1017/S0021859605005705
  • Oerke EC, Dehne HW (2004) Safeguarding Production – Losses in major crops and the role of crop protection. Crop Prot 23:275-285
  • Popp József, Petö Karoly and nagy János (2013) Pesticide productivity and food security. A review. Agron. Sustain. Dev. (2013) 33:243-255