Seeds, Pesticides and Mechanization – HYV, Indian Seed Congress, etc.

Why Brazil’s new pesticide rules should worry India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Glyphosate and its hazards

Mains level : Not Much


  • India needs to watch out as Brazil, Latin America’s powerhouse, dilutes its regulations related to pesticide rules.
  • Brazil’s health surveillance agency Anvisa approved new rules which said pesticides in Brazil would be categorised as ‘extremely toxic’ only if they carry a ‘risk of death’.

Dilution of rules

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies pesticides into four classes on the basis of toxicity: extremely dangerous, highly dangerous, moderately dangerous and slightly dangerous.
  • According to the new rules, ‘extremely dangerous and toxic pesticides’ will now be reclassified into lower categories.
  • The new rules are thus contrary to the existing classification model that considers death risk, along with other effects like skin and eye irritations.
  • While a person may not die due to impact on the skin or an eye, these are certainly indicators of hazardous impacts on health.

Brazil, beans and glyphosate

  • Two years ago, Brazil was the world’s top exporter of soyabeans and captured half the market, followed closely by the US.
  • In 2017, Brazil was the third-biggest seller of beans to India, with six per cent of the market share, after Myanmar (60 per cent) and China (10 per cent).
  • This year too, it is on its way to being the leading exporter of soyabeans globally due to the increasing demand from China.
  • But there is one big hitch in all this: pesticides.
  • Brazillian farmers use pesticides in growing all of the country’s major export crops — soyabeans, corn, sugarcane, coffee, rice, beans, and cotton.

Why Brazilian soyabean is harmful?

  • Soyabeans is a major crop that is laden with pesticides.
  • While pesticide use in Brazil has risen three-times faster than production per hectare, each one per cent increase in soyabean production has been accompanied by a 13 per cent increase in pesticide use.
  • It may be noted that glyphosate is used on around 95 per cent of soyabean, corn and cotton harvested in Brazil and there is no readily available substitute.

Hazards of glyphosate

  • The widely-used herbicide has been linked to numerous health problems.
  • It has been classified as a probable human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, an intergovernmental agency under WHO.
  • Russia and many European countries called for the removal of all Brazilian products and called for a general boycott on Brazil until the government changes the policy on pesticides.

What can be done to counter this?

  • Since India does not have any set standards for maximum residual limits for glyphosate, the FSSAI has decided to use the standards set by Codex Alimentarius, a joint committee set up by the WHO and FAO.
  • It has also suggested the testing of imported shipments of these products for compliance with these limits.
  • Even as Brazil is likely to go ahead with its agenda on revising and weakening pesticide rules, the global consumers or the importing nations need to be cautious while granting import clearances to crops from Brazil.
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