Prelims level : Medicine and Pharmaceuticals. Mains level : GS-II Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector or Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
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Why in News?

  • The use of herbicide Paraquat has killed more than hundreds of people in the last two years in Odisha’s Burla district leading to demands for its Ban.

About Paraquat:

  • Paraquat is a toxic chemicalthat is widely used as an Herbicide (Plant Killer), primarily for weed and Grass Control.
  • It has been banned in 32 countries including Switzerland, where herbicide producing company Sygenta is based.
  • Paraquat also figures on the list of 99 pesticides and herbicides the Supreme Court to ban in an ongoing case.
  • Paraquat dichloride is being used for 25 crops in India, whereas it is approved to be used on only nine crops by the Central Insecticide Board and Registration Committee. This is a violation of the Indian Insecticides Act.
  • So far in India, only Kerala has banned the herbicide.
  • Since farmers can’t and don’t read the label on paraquat containers, retailers sell paraquat in plastic carry bags and refill bottles.

Why Paraquat is lethal?

  • There is no antidote to this herbicide, the consumers of which complain of kidney, liver and lung problems.
  • They may recover from kidney problems, but die of lung- and liver-related ailments. Some also witness kidney failure.It is also toxic to human beings and animals due to its redox activity, which produces Superoxide Anions.
  • It has been linked to the development of Parkinson’s Diseaseand is banned in several countries.


What is the Issue?

  • The vast majority of the population in western Odisha and its bordering districts in Chhattisgarh are dependent on agriculture.
  • Crop failures and family disturbances often drive people to look for poison to commit suicide and Paraquat, which is easily available at homes as well as in neighbourhood shops, becomes an “obvious” choice.
  • There have also been cases of people becoming accidental victims when they absorb Paraquat while sprinkling it in Agricultural Fields.

Can worldwide ban be Imposed?

  • Paraquat is yet to be listed in the Prior Informed consent (PIC) of Rotterdam Convention.
  • It is an international treaty on Import/Export of Hazardous Chemicalssigned in 1998.
  • If it is in the chemical figures of the PIC, the exporting country has to take the importing nation’s prior consent before exporting it.

About Rotterdam Convention:

  • The Rotterdam Convention is formally known as the Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade.
  • It is a multilateral treaty to promote shared responsibilities in relation to importation of hazardous chemicals.
  • The convention promotes Open Exchange of Informationand calls on exporters of hazardous chemicals to use proper labeling, include directions on safe handling, and inform purchasers of any known restrictions or bans.
  • Signatory nations can decide whether to allow or ban the importation of chemicals listed in the Treatyand exporting countries are obliged to make sure that producers within their jurisdiction comply.
  • India is a party to the convention,with 161 other parties.



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