Most fruits and vegetables are largely unfit for human consumption due to their high chemical content.
Pesticides continue to be used recklessly in the fields of Punjab.
Within the state the worst affected is the southwestern belt known as the Malwa region comprising the districts of Bathinda, Mansa, Moga, Faridkot, Sangrur, Barnala and Ferozepur. The black soil in the region is suited for cotton cultivation.
However, the crop was susceptible to attacks from American bollworm. To check these attacks, farmers would sometimes spray the crop with pesticides — as many as 35 times a year. This took a toll on the whole ecosystem in the region and experts widely concur that the polluted soil and ground water have significantly contributed to the high incidence of cancer in the region.
Situation improved marginally in 2005 with the introduction of Bt cotton when the annual number of sprays on Bt cotton came down from 35 to five. However, the pests ran faster than the pesticide. And Bt cotton became vulnerable to a new pest called mealy bug and the number of sprays has now risen to 30 times per year. Not only Bt Cotton, state’s horticulture produce, especially its vegetables, is equally notorious for high chemical content. A farmer from Jalandhar, preferring not to be named, said, “Brinjal is most susceptible to pest attacks. The chemical that we spray to ‘save’ brinjal, keeps the vegetable toxic even after 60 days of the spray. This is one reason you will never find brinjal being cooked in a farmer’s house in Punjab.
The last line is unbelievable. How can a human being sell poison to another? How much more shall we stoop in our greed? As a farmer I would like to change the crop rather than do this or not to grow anything at all.
It is also a pointer to the myth that genetically modified (GM) cotton or for that matter any GM plants have better resistance to bugs. New bugs come up everyday and learn to live with them. Why can’t we invent something reasonable?
© Sandeep Bhalla