Pesticide is a general term for substances, which are used to poison pests (weeds, insects, molds, rodents etc.). The pesticides most acutely dangerous to humans are insecticides and rodenticides. Synthetic pesticides have been popular with farmers, because of their widespread availability, simplicity in application, efficacy and economic returns. But they also have huge environmental costs. After India’s Green Revolution started, the consumption of pesticides in India has increased several hundred folds, from 154 MT in 1954 to 88,000 MT in 2000-2001. According to industry estimates, the pesticide use has high growth potential in India, as the use of agricultural pesticides is markedly low at 0.54 kg /ha as against 3.7 kg/ha in USA and 2.7 kg/ha in Europe. Notwithstanding the fact that overall consumption of pesticides in India as a whole is low than that used in the developed countries of the world, there is still a widespread contamination of water, soil and air with pesticide residues. In India, among different states maximum consumption of pesticides-1999-2000 was in Uttar Pradesh (7459 MT) followed by Punjab (6972 MT), Haryana (5025 MT), Andhra Pradesh (4054 MT), Gujarat (3646 MT). Leading pesticides used in India include monocrotophos (10700 MT- highest consumed), acephate (6400MT), endosulfan (5600 MT) and chlorpyrifos (5000 MT - fourth highest consumed). (Source: Pesticide Information, Volume XXVIII, No. 3, October- December 2002).
About 54% of the total pesticides used in Indian agriculture are consumed on cotton alone, though it accounts for only 5% of the total cultivated area (Puri et al, 1999) and nearly 20-25 per cent are used for the control of sucking pests and bollworm. Pesticides have become integral part of villagers in Punjab. Bhatinda district in Punjab, an important cotton belt of the country irrigated by canal water grows largely cotton and rice crop –the two crops known for excessive use of pesticides. The Punjab Agricultural University at Ludhiana recommends only seven sprays on cotton in six months, but farmers in Bhatinda spray as many as 32 times. (www.indiatogether.org). Many people are using empty containers of pesticide for storing most of the food items. (Source: An epidemiological study of cancer cases reported from villages of Talwandi Sabo block district Bhatinda, Punjab, Final Report, Punjab Pollution Control Board, Patiala). Several studies have shown pesticide residues in breast milk (Kalra et al, 1994), bovine milk (Kalra et al, 1999), fruits and vegetables from Punjab and a few reports of high incidence of cancer have been coming from certain areas of Punjab since last few years. An epidemiological study was conducted in villages of Talwandi Sabo block, district Bhatinda by the Chandigarh based Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) on behalf of the Punjab Government to assess whether cancer cases are higher in these areas. A total population of 183243 consisting of 39732 families in 129 villages- a CSE Report: Analysis of Pesticide Residues in blood samples from villages of Punjab.