After the tragic deaths of more than 25 Indian school children who consumed pesticide-tainted food earlier this month, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization is pushing for developing nations to stop their use of hazardous chemicals in farming. Without pesticide regulations in play, the UN FAO is urging these countries to cease the distribution of toxic chemicals, which continue to be employed throughout the country despite their proven detrimental effects on human health. The FAO hopes that the recent deaths will force India’s government to implement a stronger control on pesticide distribution.
Using the tragedy in Bihar as an example, the FAO has made a statement drawing attention to the flaws in the distribution of toxic products in developing countries like India. Factors such as cost have outweighed obvious human health risks and have kept hazardous pesticides available. Many pesticides, like monocrotophos (the chemical responsible in the school childrens’ deaths), have been allowed to remain in the Indian market after manufacturers convinced government officials of their cost effectiveness. The manufacturers also convinced authorities that monocrotophos is more effective overall, despite having hazardous effects on humans.
But the FAO maintains, the main issue in developing countries is not the chemicals themselves, but the total lack of management, storage, handling and distribution. If available to unskilled hands, the chemicals could do tremendous damage, unbeknownst to the farmer or handler using them. The FAO feels that a total ban or withdrawal of hazardous chemicals such as monocrotophos will prevent any further accidents from happening.