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Restricted use of ‘Glyphosate’-A Herbicide in Demand
Nov 09, 2022
Enhance your UPSC CSE preparation with our daily dose of Current Affairs wherein we discuss topics that make news at National and International level. In today's edition of our Current Affairs, we will discuss Restricted use of ‘Glyphosate’-A Herbicide in Demand. The topic's relevance to the UPSC CSE syllabus is mentioned below.
For Prelims: Glyphosate, Herbicide, EPSPS, Insecticides Act of 1968, genetic modification (GM), BT cotton.
For Mains: Usage of Glyphosate in India, Government’s Measure on Glyphosate, Reason for the Restricted Usage of Glyphosate, Health concerns over glyphosate.
Recently, glyphosate, a widely used herbicide, has been restricted by the Union Agriculture Ministry.
Explain the government measures in India on the usage of herbicides in India.
Development: It was developed in 1970.
It is a herbicide that is used to kill weeds.
Glyphosate can control a wide range of weeds, whether broadleaf or grassy.
Weeds are basically undesirable plants that compete with crops for nutrients, water, and sunlight.
Farmers usually remove weeds either manually or through the spray of herbicides, as they grow at the expense of crops.
When applied to their leaves, it inhibits the production of a protein ‘5-enolpyruvylshikimate-3-phosphate synthase (EPSPS)’.
EPSPS produced only by plants and microorganisms, synthesizes aromatic amino acids that are necessary for their growth.
It is designed to kill all plants coming into contact with it, thus It is also non-selective, and kills most plants.
Weeds growing on bunds are hosts for fungi, such as those causing sheath blight disease in rice.
Thus, removing weeds through this method, makes it easier for water to flow and to walk through them.
Usage of Glyphosate in India
As per the Insecticides Act of 1968, there are nine glyphosate-based formulations containing different concentrations of the chemical registered for use.
Approved areas for usage:
Weed control in tea gardens or rubber plantations.
Weed control in non-crop areas such as railway tracks or playgrounds.
Weeds control in irrigation channels and bunds to clear these weeds.
Government’s Measure on Glyphosate
The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare’s notification states that “the use of glyphosate involves health hazards and risk to human beings and animals”.
Government has not yet banned glyphosate and only “restricted” its use.
The spraying of glyphosate and its derivatives shall henceforth only be permitted through “pest control operators”.
In 2018, the Government of Punjab also banned the sale of glyphosate.
Kerala government issued a ban on the sale, distribution, and use of glyphosate in 2019.
Reason for the Restricted Usage of Glyphosate
The scope for glyphosate is already restricted in normal agricultural crops by virtue of it being a non-selective herbicide.
Glyphosate application has increased only with the advent of genetic modification (GM) or transgenic technology, due to the following reasons:
The crops such as cotton, maize, and soybean have incorporated a ‘cp4-epsps’ gene, isolated from a soil bacterium Agrobacterium tumefaciens.
This alien gene code does not allow glyphosate to bind with the EPSPS enzyme. Thus GM crops can tolerate the spraying of the herbicide, which then kills only the weeds.
In India BT cotton is the only GM crop officially under commercial cultivation and its seeds are also in high demand, thus often sold illegally.
This raises the demand for glyphosate, as manual weeding is expensive and there is non-availability of labor when required.
All of this leads to the high demand for glyphosate as well as planting HT cotton.
The Centre is trying to nip the problem of illegal sales of GM crops, thus cutting the access of farmers to glyphosate and allowing its use only through pest control operators.
Note: In 2019, approx 81.5 million hectares of herbicide-tolerant (HT) GM crops were planted worldwide. The global glyphosate market is annually worth $9.3 billion, with over 45% of use on account of GM crops.
Health Concerns Over Glyphosate
IARC Report: The World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), in March 2015, classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans”.
UEPA’s Report: The US Environmental Protection Agency has held that there are “no risks of concern to human health from current uses of glyphosate” and “no evidence” of it causing cancer.
Worldwide 35 countries such as Sri Lanka, Netherlands, France, Colombia, Canada, Israel, and Argentina have either banned or restricted the use of glyphosate.
The Union Environment Ministry’s Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) has recently recommended the commercial release of Delhi University’s GM hybrid mustard, which can also tolerate the spraying of glufosinate-ammonium.
GEAC is further set to take a call on approving glyphosate-tolerant Bt cotton, whose illegal cultivation is an open secret.
The Supreme Court has to give its judgment on a plea that challenges the GEAC’s nod for the transgenic hybrid mustard and also seeks a ban on all HT crops.