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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 37, New Delhi, August 29, 2020

Pesticide Lobby Uses Money-Power to Defame Protectors of Environment | Bharat Dogra

Friday 28 August 2020, by Bharat Dogra

It is an increasingly and widely accepted aspect of agriculture and farm policy that heavy chemical pesticide use of recent decades in agriculture has caused immense harm and there is wisdom in reducing pesticide use and moving towards pesticide-free farming to the extent possible in various regional contexts. Millions of people have died and suffered serious diseases due to exposure to chemical pesticides and consumption of pesticide contaminated food. There has been immense harm to environment and bio-diversity, particularly to farmer-friendly insects and birds.

The ecological conditions needed for natural nurturing of plants are disrupted terribly by pesticides and this is why careful ways of moving away from pesticides have been found to result in possibilities of not just healthier but also more food while of course costs are reduced. The huge risks relating to manufacturing processes of pesticides were highlighted above all by the worst industrial disaster in Bhopal.

Despite these well-established aspects supported by many independent studies, the powerful pesticide lobby has been able to use its money-power to go on introducing many toxic pesticides because of its immense money-power and high-level contacts.

Thanks to the continuing efforts of many activists dedicated to environment protection and promotion of organic farming, supported by several honest scientists and officials, it has been possible after a long process to move towards the ban of some of the more harmful pesticides, one aspect of which is the recent government proposal in an advanced stage to ban 27 pesticides. The list of pesticides which should be banned was prepared by highly qualified scientists but the process is being hindered by the pesticides lobby.

It is in this context that the recent highly controversial full-page advertorial published in a leading business daily on July 29 should be seen. In this so-called advertorial the pesticide lobby has taken the unprecedented step of defaming and denigrating those activists, writers and researchers who have been in the forefront of working for eco-friendly agriculture in recent years. The activists have been named, their photos published and then most unfair allegations have been hurled on them, while the advertorial goes on warning readers and people against environmental NGOs.

It is well-known how several environmental and social activists have faced injustice and victimization in recent times, and this seems to be a new insidious way of attacking them by using money-power in the form of full-page advertorial. Environmental activists have of course responded and the advertorial has been withdrawn from the internet edition of the business daily, but this is not adequate compensation for the huge damage done. This form of organized defamation using money-power should be widely condemned and the Press Council should give clear instructions against any further use of such money-power against social and environmental activists.

The writer is a freelance journalist who has been involved with several social movements. His latest book as Co-author is ‘When Two Streams Met—Lessons from India’s Freedom Struggle’ ( Vitasta).

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