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Who decides what’s in my food?

By ADMIN, 04/18/2015 - 20:02
by - Swathi Muralidhar (Guest Blogger at SankalpTaru Foundation)

Ever since the increase in demand for food crops, people have come up with methods to increase the yield in a short time- irrespective of the ‘quality’ of the food that’s being produced. Under such circumstances did the use of pesticides occur! In order to prevent the insects and pests from spoiling the crops, farmers started to load the crops with these chemical fertilizers without even thinking about the long term effects.

Now, due to the excessive use of pesticides over time, we are encountering several issues.

Effects on environment Effects on Plants Effects on Animals
Pesticide Drift: When the pesticidal particles are volatilized or suspended in the air, they cause a change in the level of humidity and temperature of the place. Nitrogen fixation is hindered by pesticides in soil as these particles are organic chemicals which lead to cross reactions and the interactions of the microbes in the reaction is also affected. Around 72 million birds are killed by pesticides each year in USA. Bald eagles are an excellent example for this.
Tropospheric ozone: The volatile organic compounds used in the pesticide to fumigate the soil rise up into the atmospheric zones and forms a layer called the Tropospheric ozone. The chlorine released the melted sea ice releases chlorine which reacts with this layer leading to increase in the temperature on earth. The insecticides DDT, methyl parathion, and especially pentachlorophenol have been shown to interfere with legume-rhizobium chemical signalling leading to failure in the legumes crop growth or poor development of the legume crops. Some types of fungicides used in peanut farming are only slightly toxic to birds and mammals, but may kill earthworms, which can in turn reduce populations of the birds and mammals that feed on them.
Some pesticides come in granular form. Wildlife may eat the granules, mistaking them for grains of food. A few granules of a pesticide may be enough to kill a small bird.
Pesticides decrease the soil biodiversity.
Soil quality decreases as the water retention ability is decreased. Ph of the soil changes leading to the death of the useful microorganisms in the soil.
Root nodule formation in these plants saves the world economy $10 billion in synthetic nitrogen fertilizer every year because of the better yield and the lack of expenses in terms of the pesticides. Run off from farms carry along with them the pesticides which can lead to death of fishes due to lack of dissolved oxygen. Herbicides such as copper sulphite that are applied to water to kill plants are toxic to fish and other water animals at concentrations similar to those used to kill the plants.
Bioaccumulation- where the pesticidal chemicals keep accumulating in soil and the sorption effects leads to the spread of these chemicals throughout the region leading to a phenomenon called bio magnification. Pesticides also kill the bees which are very essential for the cross pollination in the plants. It s estimated that farmers lose up to 200 dollars due to the lack of cross pollination in their crops. The herbicide paraquat, when sprayed onto bird eggs, causes growth abnormalities in embryos and reduces the number of chicks that hatch successfully.
Tadpoles from ponds containing multiple pesticides take longer to metamorphose and are smaller when they do, decreasing their ability to catch prey and avoid predators
Once the top soil is run off due to poor water retention ability, replenishing of the soil takes a lot of time and is expensive leading to barren lands formation. On the other side, pesticides have some direct harmful effect on plant including poor root hair development, shoot yellowing and reduced plant growth. When these fishes or frogs are consumed by higher animals, the toxic contents are passed onto them too leading to an increase in the concentration of the toxic materials up the food chain.(Bioaccumulation)

The pesticidal effects on environment and the plant and animal life are profound. But there is still more to it! The use of pesticides in the plants leads to several health issued in humans due to the residues of the pesticides left behind in the crops and the customers ingesting these very crops!

Three Types of Pesticidal Health Effects on Humans
Very high short- term exposure as in case of ingestion or accidental input of pesticide into the body
Long term high exposure as in case of pesticide manufacturers and formulators
Long term low exposure as in case of the ingestion of crops which contain residues of the pesticides

When such can be the immense effects of the use of pesticides, continuing the use of it is mere foolishness. Hence, a change is extremely essential. The use of our vegetables that have not been grown in pesticides is only possible when it’s grown by us, in our backyard. Yes, the concept of kitchen gardening not only decreases our expenses but also conserves our good health and manages the environment.

Making this world a better place to live in is our duty and we shall abide by it!



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