Availability of highly toxic pesticides in Tamil Nadu has become a cause for concern among the farmers and like-minded organisations espousing organic farming.
The concept organic farming, which was in vogue in the State prior to the “green revolution,” gained grounds, thanks to the efforts made by the late Namalvar and ‘Nel’ Jayaraman to popularise the traditional crop varieties.
Their perseverance paid off as a large number of farmers in different parts of the State turned towards organic farming methods and started cultivating traditional varieties such as “Mappillai Samba”, “Karuppu Kouni” among others.
The nutritious values of traditional varieties raised through organic farming did attract the health conscious consumers resulting in the upward market trend for these products, according to P. Duraisingam, Chairman, Consumer Research, Education, Action, Training and Empowerment (CREATE).
Joining hands with farmers having a flair for organic farming and revival of traditional paddy varieties, the organisation started conducting annual ‘Nel Thiruvizha’ (paddy festival) during the last decade.
Claiming that there was a growing awareness towards ecological methods of agriculture and demand for safe and nutritious food among the consumers, he regretted that the State did not have a clear organic farming policy or a roadmap to achieve the status of organic farming State like Kerala, Sikkim and others.
Thus, the CREATE, which is also spearheading the ‘save our rice’ campaign, proposed the following recommendations to achieve the status of Organic Tamil Nadu, he added.
The first and foremost among them is to forbid the usage of highly poisonous and high-level toxic pesticides in agriculture activities as 27 highly toxic pesticides though banned by the Union Government are freely available in the market through illegal ways.
In order to enhance the availability of traditional paddy variety seeds, the Government Seed Farms hitherto involved in seed production of hybrid varieties should be encouraged to diversify into traditional paddy variety seed production.
Revival of diverse livestock breeds according to each agroclimatic zones should also be considered since organic manures like ‘panchakavya’, ‘amirtha karaisal’, ‘jeevamirtha’ and others are more effective if indigenous cow breeds’ urine and dung are used in the organic manure preparations, Dr. Duraisingam added.
Stressing the need for the formulation of a State Policy for Organic Agriculture and setting up a roadmap for five years to phase out the deadly chemical usage in farming activities, he said children were more vulnerable to the harmful effects of pesticides than adults.
He claimed that rural children were at higher risk since they live close to the agriculture zones and fields where chemical pesticides were widely used.
Hence, it would be apt to declare agriculture fields located in the radius of dwelling areas and schools in rural areas as “pesticide-free zones”, he added.
Inclusion of traditional paddy varieties and millets in the nutritious meal programme, in the diet served to in-patients at government hospitals, in educational institution canteens was also recommended by the organisation.