Pesticide pushers kill thousands in Bangladesh

NOT GREEN  Banned pesticides are given the hard sell in Bangladesh, killing thousands each year.

NOT GREEN Banned pesticides are given the hard sell in Bangladesh, killing thousands each year.

Thousands of Bangladeshi workers are dying of pesticide poisoning each year, as a result of unsafe use of often banned products.

Meanwhile, safer, greener agricultural methods are ignored in the face of a sustained and richly-resourced promotional campaign by multinational pesticide producers.

An annual government health survey has found that pesticide-related poisoning may be responsible for several thousand deaths each year in Bangladesh. 

The 2009 Health Bulletin, released in December and based on health statistics from 2008, recorded 7,438 pesticide-related poisoning deaths at more than 400 hospitals nationwide amongst men and women aged 15-49.

“Considering the widespread illiteracy of our farmers, it should be made mandatory for pesticide producers and sellers to print pictures on pesticide containers showing how to use and dispose of them properly after use,” Mohammad Mahfuzullah, an environmental activist and executive director of the Centre for Sustainable Development (CFSD), told the UN’s IRIN news service.

Compounding the problem is the increasing pesticide consumption in the country, including many which are highly toxic.

According to the most recent government figures available, 37,712 tons of pesticides were sold in Bangladesh in 2007, an increase of 145.3 per cent on 2001.

Bangladesh’s 1985 Pesticide Rules outline stringent procedures for the registration, import, manufacture, sale, packaging and advertisement of pesticides.

But pesticide importers and traders pay scant attention to these regulations, experts say.

Illiterate farmers are also persuaded by unscrupulous traders and a plethora of incentive schemes to buy unregistered pesticide formulations that promise to protect crops against pest attacks and disease.

It means safer products and alternative greener, pesticide free approaches, like integrated pest management, don’t get a look in.

According to Pesticides Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP): “Pesticides prevail because a multi-billion dollar industry is behind them, exerting great influence on international standard setting bodies, national governments, and local communities.”

It adds: “The enormous influence that these chemical corporations wield, because of their economic power, is a major factor in why pesticides use persists in our agriculture in spite of the growing evidences of human poisonings and even deaths, devastating environmental contamination, and the evidences of greater yields which can be achieved when the chemicals are replaced by agroecological practices.”

In Bangladesh, suppliers continue to sell many chemical substances banned by the government, as well as chemical compounds such as aldrin and endrin, which are classified as “highly hazardous” by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Many pesticides are sold unlabelled or under false labels, and with no clear warnings or instructions to farmers.

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