The agrochemical industry, worried by the proposed ban on 27 pesticides by the Centre, is drawing up a legal strategy to counter it. However, internal documents prepared by industry experts show that continued manufacture of four pesticides on the list would be almost impossible to defend in a court of law due to their high toxicity.

The continued production of another 11 pesticides would also be very difficult or extremely difficult to justify by the companies.

The big players in the industry have prepared internal detailed presentations about the legal fight. Every pesticide based on the ability of the companies to defend the chemicals in a court of law has been analysed in the presentations.

‘Undefendable’ pesticides

The four pesticides identified as impossible to defend are carbosulfan, dicofol, methomyl and monocrotophos. These are already in the red category, which in trade parlance means highly toxic.

Monocrotophos is an organo-phosphorus insecticide, which is extremely toxic to birds and poisonous to mammals. It is used to kill a variety of sucking and boring insects and pests. The Food and Agriculture Organisation and the WHO have encouraged countries to phase out this highly hazardous pesticide because of major health risks, but in India, it continues to be produced, used and exported.

The presentation, on the other hand, has pointed out that a pesticide such as malathion is relatively easy to defend as data on its bio-efficacy, persistence and residue in the environment can easily be generated. It is banned only in two countries, which can be cross-verified. The pesticide can be cleared from the banned list with the help of a good legal defence.

The Centre started the review process of pesticides in 2013. The Union Agriculture Ministry shortlisted 66 pesticides for review and also formed the Anupam Varma Committee to look into the issue. After the Committee report was submitted, 18 pesticides were banned immediately and 27 were to be reviewed in 2018 but not banned.

However, on May 14, 2020, the order was issued with a proposed ban on 27 pesticides, but the final ban has not been placed. Exports have been allowed on a case-to-case basis. The final date calling all suggestions and objects on the pesticides has been extended till August 11.