Centre restricts use of common weedicide glyphosate citing health hazards

The Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare issued a notice October 21, 2022 restricting the use of glyphosate, a widely used herbicide, citing health hazards for humans and animals. Only authorised Pest Control Operators are allowed to use it.

Earlier, state governments of Maharashtra, Telangana, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh have tried similar steps but failed. Pesticide Action Network (PAN) India believes stricter action is needed.

The notification was based on a 2019 report by the Government of Kerala on prohibiting the distribution, sale and use of glyphosate and its derivatives.

Some 35 countries have banned or restricted the use of glyphosate. These include Sri Lanka, Netherlands, France, Colombia, Canada, Israel and Argentina.

Health impacts of glyphosate range from cancer, reproductive and developmental toxicity to neurotoxicity and immunotoxicity. Symptoms include irritation, swelling, burning of the skin, oral and nasal discomfort, unpleasant taste and blurred vision.

In India, glyphosate has been approved for use only in tea plantations and non-plantation areas accompanying the tea crop. Use of the substance anywhere else is illegal.

However, a 2020 study by PAN India on the state of glyphosate use in the country had worrying findings. Field studies were conducted in Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Tamilnadu, Telangana and West Bengal.

Glyphosate was being used in more than 20 crop fields, it was found. Majority of those using the weedicide were not trained for doing so and did not have the appropriate safety precautions.

The rampant use of glyphosate in non-designated areas has severe consequences. Narasimha Reddy, a public policy expert and advisor of PAN India, said in a statement:

Use of all weedicides including glyphosate is destroying uncultivated food resources and thereby destroying indigenous nutrition habits as well, making rural people and agricultural communities deprived of adequate nutrition, in addition to polluting ecosystems.