Agriculture and Medical Experts trash rumors on pesticides: In a consolidated effort to stem rumors that Malwa District of Punjab had high cancer rate because of excessive usage of pesticides, Crop Care Federation of India (CCFI) and Centre for Environment & Agriculture (Centegro) via a knowledge session on ‘Crop Protection Products in Food Security and Myths surrounding them’.
A team comprising of eminent toxicologist and researches addressed the Media. These included Dr. Ajit KumarChairman-Technical Committee,CCFI, Dr. Balwinder Singh, Ex- Director,Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, Dr.Tejas Prajapati,Consultant Toxicologist, Ahmedabad Medical College, Sagar Kaushik, President, Corporate Affairs, UPL and Mr. Naveen Soni, Head, Corporate Communications, UPL.
Dr Ajit Kumar emphasised that when pesticides are applied in accordance to the Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) they do not pose any health risks and India has a robust regulatory system in this regard.
While addressing the listeners, Dr.Tejas Prajapati, emphasised that Socioeconomic factors affect cancer rates and mortality and will become a bigger challenge in the future. He explained that cancer rates, cancer types & cancer mortality vary widely around the world and at least 8 t???? environmental or lifestyle risk factors that account for 50% of all cancer deaths. “Tobacco exposure is by far the most prominent reason for cancer deaths. In this conext, strategies to reduce these risk factors will have a tremendous impact on reducing the burden of cancer globally,” he added.
“Pesticides are important inputs in agriculture and must be used judiciously for the benefit of mankind and environment. Besides deploying alternate control measures, usage of GM Crops may reduce dependence on pesticides,” said Dr. Balwinder Singh. “Threfore, its important that regular monitoring for residues be made a national priority. Also, coordinated approach involving farmers, scientists, policy makers, trade, industry, administration and consumers will help in the long-run.”
Please refer to the attached document for more insights into cancer spread and deaths in Punjab
- A study carried out by Singh, 2008 (Ref. 3) in Malwa Region of Indian Punjab reported that ‘the media description of ‘high risk’ districts as ‘cancer belt’ of Punjab, however, needs further investigation. The study found thata village with rice crop hasa lesser probability of cancer (page 36 and 44 of the Report), while where cotton is grown extensively has a far more chances of cancer. The same report also reveals that “There is a very significant correlation between occupation and cancer mortality. More home makers are dying due to cancer than farmers and those involved in other profession. This could be a direct corollary of the fact that cancer mortality among females is higher than males” (p. 44).
- The School of Public Health, Department of Community Medicine, Department of Cytology and Gynecological Pathology, Post Graduate Institution of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh, India, and Punjab Pollution Control Board, Patiala, Punjab, India (Thakur et. al. 2008), on the basis of a research study, concluded that the cancer cases and deaths are higher in Talwandi Sabo block (Talwandi Sabo is the part of cotton belt of Malwa region of Punjab where there is very high use of pesticides) , probably due to a cocktail of risk factors which were more common use of tobacco and alcohol, consumption of non-vegetarian and spicy food, high levels of heavy metals in water, and excessive pesticides use. It is difficult to pin-point a single cause as cancer is caused by multiple factors. Therefore, a multi- pronged strategy to provide safe water supply, discouraging the indiscriminate use of pesticides, tobacco and alcohol is recommended. A cancer registry should be established in the area to see the trend of different cancers in the area
- Population Based Cancer Registries (PBCR) are essential to know the true cancer burden in the Population and it is the first step in cancer control. In 2013, Tata Memorial Centre (TMC), Mumbai in collaboration with PGIMER, Chandigarh, and with active support from the Government of Punjab started the population based cancer registries in urban, semi urban and rural population (covering 4.5 million) to know the cancer burden and trends over the period in these areas.
- registry data has estirnated that the risk of getting cancer in males is in the range of 5 to 11% and in females 6 to 13%. The risk is double in the urban area as compared to rural area. The major cancers in – Punjab are Breast, Cervix Uteri, Lung, Prostate and Oesophagus and in Chandigarh are Breast, Cervix Uteri, Lung and Prostate. Most of these cancers are preventable
- There was increased pesticide use in Punjab, especially in Malwa region, leading to water pollution, cancer etc. The available data on pesticides consumption over the years does not support this conjecture, as the pesticides consumption in Punjab in relation to the country as a whole, which was 16.0 % in 2000-01, decreased to 10.9% in 201 1-12, and further declined to 9.9 % in 2014-15.
- Even in Mizoram where the cancer case is high the pesticide consumption was very less (till 2012-2013 about 4 MT per annum). Hence it could be seen that there seems to be no co-relation between the consumption of pesticides and cancer incidence. There are many other confounding factors responsible for causing cancer.
- The Central Ground Water Board, Govt. of India brought out a Report in 2014 on ‘Water Quality Issues and Challenges in Punjab’ (Ref. 6). Analysis of water samples was undertaken for determination of pesticide residues and Organochlorine pesticides at selected locations in six districts namely Faridkot, Bathinda, Mansa, Ferozpur, Muktsar, and Moga (all from Malwa Region) of Punjab. It was reported that no pesticidal residues were found in samples collected from these locations. Organophosphorous pesticides, Pyrethyroids, Fungicides, Weedicides and Poly nuclear Hydrocarbons were also determined in these samples and were not detectable in any of the water samples (page 102-03 of report).
- The available reports emanating from research institutes, and also the statements of esteemed Cancer Specialists very clearly show that the cause of cancer in Punjab State (which includes Malwa region) is inno way exclusively due to pesticides use and/or presence of heavy metals in water, but could be attributed to the other confounding factors including the lifestyle.
- The Govt. of India may create pan-India awareness campaigns among the public at large as a part of its programme for reduction of Non Communicable Diseases (NCD), not getting swayed by documentaries and other mass media report which lack logic and may have some other ulterior motives.
- The Pesticide Registration System in India is quite comprehensive and robust. The Central Insecticides Board & Registration Committee (CIB & RC), statutory custodian of registration of pesticides, under the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmer Welfare, Government of India before allowing registration of a pesticide ensures that the data are generated and evaluated as per prescribed guidelines and satisfy itself regarding its efficacy against the target pest / diseases and safety to human beings, animals and the environment
- The link between pesticide exposure and cancer is very limited. This is because a) there have been very few studies conducted, b) studies examining cancer risk from exposure to specific pesticides have been limited by the small numbers of people in the studies, c) the wide range of chemicals used in pesticides, and d) exposure to other possible carcinogens in workers who may also use pesticides. Theses factors make it impossible to currently establish direct links between pesticides used and cancer.