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    Use Of Pesticides And Organic Farming Vs GM Food
    By Ashwani Kumar | June 24th 2012 07:03 AM | 4 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Ashwani

    Professor Emeritus ,Former Head of the Department of Botany, and Director Life Sciences, University of Rajasthan, Jaipur. 302004, India At present...

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    When Sulphur, Copper and organo metallic pesticides were replaced by systemic fungicides and pesticides it was a great breakthrough. Cash crops like cotton attract maximum use of pesticides.

    In a popular TV show in India, advice was given not to use pesticides and go for organic farming. Most of the villagers in earlier times were engaged in organic farming alone as they had no access to pesticides or fertilizers due to remoteness, lack of knowledge or paucity of funds. No doubt the government of India has spread the knowledge about agriculture to villages and now its quite common that villagers use both. However, more so in the case of cash crops like cotton, sugarcane or vegetables.

    GM food could be one answer to the problem of pests and productivity, and several countries use GM crops in millions of hectares but in Europe, Japan and the Indian subcontinent they face stiff opposition. The introduction of genetically modified cotton - Bt Cotton - has been a boon to cotton growers of Gujrat and elsewhere. The use of GM plants for non-food items would not attract much criticism as one is not eating the plants or plant products.

    However, not going into this controversy I wish to say that if the farmers follow advice of Mr. Amir Khan in his TV show, not to use pesticides and fertilizers, we are turning the wheel in the other direction. It is a retrogressive step. The correct approach would be use of bio-pesticides like Neem cake, Neem leaves, Calotropis latex, and other bio pesticides studied in our lab. My colleague Professor P.C. Trivedi currently VC of Gorakhpur University or Professor Manoharchari of Usmania University Hyderabad have extensively worked and advocated the use of biopesticides. Early sowing , early maturing crops, use of sanitation, improved cultural practices or use of resistant varieties could be another option.

    Mustard, which used to suffer from white rusts and pests this year gave excellent yield in Rajasthan mainly due to use of improved cultivars. Wheat rust, which played havoc some decades ago, is now difficult to find in plains. However this is a highly technical matter and needs detailed analysis but just to advise farmers not to use pesticides at all is not wise.

    What one should suggest is:

    1. Do not use pesticides when the crop is in ripening stage and is about to come to market. The worst part of chemicals is when farmers or middle men use heavy doses of pesticides on crop plants, vegetables so that all vegetables looks so fresh and shiny. Cauliflower is marble white and free from insects. What the middleman or farmers do is to dip the cauliflower in the pesticide solution that is why it appears insect free and marble white.

    2. Use biodegradable pesticides i.e. simple pesticides based on sulphur, or copper or even organo metallic substances may not do as much harm as the systemic fungicides which are taken up by plants and transported across the plants. They remain in plant body for around 15 days hence no systemic fungicide should be sprayed in this period when the vegetable is about to reach market.

    3. Plants generally take minerals in ionic form. The organic fertilizers are basically used to bind the soil but the nitrogen or for that matter most of macro and micro nutrients are taken up in inorganic form and in ionic form. Plants are not animals who can take up and digest proteins, or organic compounds from nature. Plants have to synthesize their food from inorganic carbon, nitrogen and minerals, although this again varies with the plant species. 

    Hence, the concept of organic farming needs to be understood in the right perspective. A suitable combination of organic farming and cultural practices could help prevent disease in the field but once it appears the use of pesticides is a must, choice is very limited - unless we use genetically modified plants.  

    Comments

    rholley
    Nicely summed up in the last paragraph.

    Regarding copper in the form of Cheshunt Compound (copper sulfate plus ammonium carbonate), it has been withdrawn.  An inorganic material is generally more stable on storage, so this hits the home user who wants to keep a small tin for several years.

    It is among many withdrawn chemicals in this list from the Royal Horticultural Society.
     
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    DrAshwani Kumar's article is well balanced and realistic.With due regard to my 'organic farm' colleagues, as a farmer I emphasise that we must adopt an integrated approach in pest management.For instance in cotton crop, we the farmers address the problem of boll worms by growing bt cotton.We are thoroughly satisfied with it's performance.Rather we have forgotten about the boll worm control measures.As far as the sucking pest s in cotton are concerned, the non targetted natural predators like lady bird beetles,green lace wings are preserved as there is no need to spray insecticides to control boll worms.We apply nitrogen in split doses,spray neem based biopesticides to manage sucking pests.If there is any outbreak of sucking pests we do use chemical insecticide judiciously.The combination of gm crops and judicious use of chemicals is the best option to enhance the farm productivity, farmers income and food security.
    VKV.RAVICHANDRAN,
    Farmer,Tamil Nadu.

    rholley
    I had to look up the Neem tree on Wikipedia, to find that it belongs to the mahogany family Meliaceae. 

    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Ashwani Kumar
    Thanks for supporting the cause of environment protection