Green rice field / Photo by Getty Images
To manage the production of plant-based products and to protect them from pests or insects, farmers and landowners use agricultural chemicals. However, in some countries farms are already drowning in pesticides. Countries such as India, China, and Thailand have been greatly affected by the amount of chemical-waste found in their environment.
One Huge Step in India, One Big Change for a Better Environment
In Sikkim, India, the number of cancer patients had increased, more waste is floating over their rivers and seas, and soil nutrients are decreasing in efficiency. Fortunately, local leaders realized that the increase in agricultural production is not worth risking the lives of their residents. These chemicals had already tainted vegetable crops, rice, and fish. Still, this was a huge step for Sikkim, as India is known to be highly dependent on its agricultural production and use of fertilizers and pesticides.
As of 2003, local leaders banned the use pesticides from each farm in the state. Now in 2018, India is thriving with all-organic agriculture, healthier farmers and residents, as well as a drastic improvement of the nation’s ecosystem. As mentioned by Sikkim Secretary of Horticulture and Cash Crop Development Khorlo Bhutia, their progress is a result of the cleanliness of air, water, and food, as well as less pollution. Eventually, their progress reached Prime Minister Narendra Modi who further supported the campaign by giving $119 million to organic farmers throughout the rest of the country. This gave way to the certification of 190,000 acres of organic farms as of April 2018.
Pawan Kumar Chamling, Sikkim’s chief minister, convinced his 300 constituents to welcome the all-organic lifestyle. Aside from writing poetry and being India’s longest chief minister in position, Chamling also spends his time educating agriculturists and cultivators about organic farming. Slowly, they were able to grasp the importance of chemical-free products. Chamling believes that this approach will inspire the rest of the world to go organic. Moreover, to encourage the state’s farmers, Sikkim gradually decreased the supply of pesticides and other agricultural chemicals. In the year 2014, the state officially declared the use of these chemicals as a criminal offense.
However, this kind of change has taken a toll among farmers. Some have complained about the negative impact on their income, while others quit working in the field. Farmer Pem Dorjee Sherpa mentioned how the government should provide more access to organic manure and training. Surveys also showed similar feedback in 16 farms located across the state. To resolve this issue, India’s local leaders made it possible for the farmers to receive two dozen transport vehicles and opened two more markets where they can sell their products directly to consumers.
The overall demand for organic crops and food had also increased in India. The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India recently conducted a study that shows how chemical-free or organic foods are making their way into the market, growing at around 25 percent each year. By 2020, India is expected to market $12 million, topping the $8 million profit as of 2018.
Small Farms in China Cause More Pollution
Meanwhile, in China, farms of all sizes have been proven to harm the country’s health and environment. This study conducted by a team of researchers from the Universities of Melbourne, Zhejiang, Fudan, Wuhan, and Stanford, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, mentioned how agricultural chemicals were used inefficiently in small farms. This led to economic losses, as well as an increase in the country’s pollution. According to researcher Baojing Gu, "China is the world's largest consumer of agricultural chemicals, using more than 30 percent of global fertilisers.” It is also important to note that these chemicals are used for only 9 percent of the world’s agricultural land.
Although China had conducted preventive measures for a cleaner and safer environment, these remained ineffective and limited. Due to land and migration policies, small farms continue to thrive throughout China. Moreover, small farms result from the limited transfer of cropland use rights and the misallocation of labor. But once they remove these policies, the presence of agricultural chemicals would decrease by 30 to 50 percent while the environment will be improved by 50 percent. This would pave way for bigger farmlands, as those already existing have been proven to obtain better farming knowledge with less usage of chemicals. If these policies remain, China will continue to surround itself with health and environment risks in the next few decades.
Thailand Committee Declares 'No Ban' of Chemicals
The latest agricultural chemical update on Thailand seems to be following in China’s footsteps. The use of pesticides and fertilizers will not be banned, and instead, the government is willing to provide stricter laws regarding their usage. Somboon Yindeeyoungyuen, the Industry Ministry deputy permanent secretary, decided that it would best for the country to continue using agricultural chemicals. This includes paraquat, glyphosate and chlorpyrifos.
Committee members emphasized the insufficient data presented to them regarding the health hazards of these agricultural chemicals. This sparked a debate among the general public as the coordinator of Thailand Pesticide Alert Network, Prokchon Usap, claimed how the Hazardous Substance Committee protects the agro-chemicals companies instead of the locals. Protesters and different sectors would like to urge the Prime Minister and change the biased decisions of the committee members.
Tractor spraying pesticide on the crops / Photo by Getty Images