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Pesticides and Their Impacts

Pesticides and Their Impacts

Overview: Pesticides, a diverse group of chemical substances used to control or eliminate unwanted animal and plant life, play a crucial role in agriculture and domestic life. This article delves into the production and usage of pesticides in India, their benefits, and the associated hazards and environmental impacts.

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Pesticides in India:

  • India began pesticide production in 1952, making it the fourth-largest agrochemical producer globally.
  • The country registers 293 pesticides, with 104 still in use, despite being banned in multiple nations.
  • A concerning fact is that 50% of insecticides are diverted for cotton pest management in India.

Benefits of Pesticides:

  • Pesticides contribute to increased productivity and crop quality by controlling harmful organisms like caterpillars.
  • They protect crops from yield loss caused by weeds, offering economic and labor benefits.
  • Pesticides find various applications, including turf maintenance, protection of wooden structures from termites, and wood-boring insects.

Hazards of Pesticides:

  • Pesticides have direct and indirect impacts on human health and the environment.
  • Over three million acute pesticide poisoning cases, resulting in 220,000 deaths, are reported globally each year.
  • Pesticides can contaminate food, leading to health risks, as exemplified by a tragic incident in Kerala in 1958.
  • Environmental problems arise as pesticides harm non-target species such as birds, fish, beneficial insects, and plants.
  • Pesticides contaminate water sources through runoff and percolation, affecting both surface water and groundwater.
  • Soil fertility is compromised as chemicals harm beneficial bacteria and create nutritional imbalances.
  • The bioaccumulation and biomagnification of persistent chemicals in the food chain pose long-term risks.
  • The impact of pesticides on bees provides a worrisome picture for global food production. About 80 per cent of the food production depends on pollination by bees and other pollinators.


Pesticides, while offering a seemingly convenient solution for pest control, come with significant costs to health and the environment. To mitigate the negative impacts, it is essential to adopt safer, non-chemical pest control methods, both in agriculture and urban landscapes. Reducing pesticide use and promoting sustainable practices is crucial for a healthier and more environmentally responsible future.

Down to Earth Summary (Nov 16-30, 1996)

Read Also: Biopiracy: Uncovering the Hidden Exploitation of Nature’s Treasures

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