Bio-pesticides: A Boon for Sustainable Agriculture : Daily Current Affairs

Relevance: GS-3: Agriculture, Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation.

Key phrases: Bio-pesticides, PIPs, Insecticide Act 1968, CIBRC, Insecticides (Amendment) Bill, 2015, Microbial pesticides, canola oil and baking soda.

Why in News?

  • Govt proposes steep hike in registration fees of chemical pesticides to promote bio-pesticides.

What are Bio pesticides?

  • Bio pesticides are certain types of pesticides derived from such natural materials as animals, plants, bacteria, and certain minerals. For example, canola oil and baking soda have pesticidal applications and are considered bio pesticides.
  • Bio pesticides fall into three major classes:
    • Biochemical pesticides are naturally occurring substances that control pests by non-toxic mechanisms. Conventional pesticides, by contrast, are generally synthetic materials that directly kill or inactivate the pest.
    • Biochemical pesticides include substances that interfere with mating, such as insect sex pheromones, as well as various scented plant extracts that attract insect pests to traps.
    • Microbial pesticides consist of a microorganism (e.g., a bacterium, fungus, virus or protozoan) as the active ingredient. Microbial pesticides can control many different kinds of pests, although each separate active ingredient is relatively specific for its target pest. For example, there are fungi that control certain weeds and other fungi that kill specific insects.
    • Plant-Incorporated-Protectants (PIPs) are pesticidal substances that plants produce from genetic material that has been added to the plant. For example, scientists can take the gene for the Bt pesticidal protein and introduce the gene into the plant's own genetic material.

Consumption of Bio pesticides in India:

  • Globally, bio pesticides amount to only 4.5 percent of the total pesticides produced, and in the U.S.A. it is 6 percent, whereas in India, it is only 3 percent. In India, the annual growth rate of bio pesticides production is estimated to be 2.5 percent.
  • Data obtained from DPPQS suggested that the all-India consumption of bio pesticides has increased by 40% from 2014–2015 to 2018–2019.
  • Statistics also show that Maharashtra, West Bengal and Karnataka have utilized maximum amount of bio pesticides i.e., 5549, 4416 and 3478 MT, respectively, while Himachal Pradesh and Goa have used least, 36 and 38 MT respectively.

What are the advantages of using bio pesticides?

  • Bio pesticides are usually inherently less toxic than conventional pesticides.
  • Bio pesticides generally affect only the target pest and closely related organisms, in contrast to broad spectrum, conventional pesticides that may affect organisms as different as birds, insects and mammals.
  • Bio pesticides often are effective in very small quantities and often decompose quickly, resulting in lower exposures and largely avoiding the pollution problems caused by conventional pesticides.
  • When used as a component of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs, bio pesticides can greatly reduce the use of conventional pesticides, while crop yields remain high.

Legislation governing the pesticide use in India

The Insecticide Act (1968) (amended in 2000) is the only legislation under the Indian Government which governs the import, manufacture, sale, transport, distribution, and use of all types of insecticides, including bio pesticides.

The Central Insecticides Board and Registration Committee (CIBRC) also provides an additional framework for this act. In exercise of the powers conferred by Section 36 of the Insecticides Act, 1968 (46 of 1968), the Central Government, after consultation with the CIBRC made insecticides Rules, 1971, which governs the manufacture, grant of a license, expiry of the license, product labelling, packaging and sale, and use of insecticides.

In 2015 the government also passed a bill known as the Insecticides (Amendment) Bill, 2015. The Bill added a modification in Section 9 of the Insecticide Act (1968), after sub-Section (3C), the sub-sections of nanotechnology-based pesticides were inserted.

Challenges to Bio pesticides production in India:

  • Bio pesticide production is a high-risk venture requiring a high initial capital investment — right from the screening stage to selection of potential strains for sale, packaging, storage, and distribution. But the single biggest constraint to its development and growth is the rampant sale of sub-standard or spurious bio pesticides, and bio pesticides contaminated with chemical pesticides.
  • The cost of registration of bio pesticides in India and the long-drawn-out process involved, further deter companies from engaging in research and development on biological pesticides.
  • Another limitation is the requirement to verify the microorganism for bio-safety before registration and propagation of bio pesticides. Many universities and research institutions which conduct the initial research and develop bio pesticides are unable to bear the additional costs required for extensive safety and allergy tests.
  • Problem of fake, contaminated or sub-standard bio pesticides: these are the unregulated organic biological products not approved by the Central Insecticide Board and Registration Committee (CIBRC) and sold under the guise of organic bio-inputs certified by the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) under India’s Ministry of Commerce and Fertilisers. These ‘organic’ products are not subjected to any CIBRC-mandated bio-efficacy and bio-safety trials and account for an estimated 65 percent of the total volume of sales of bio pesticides in the country.
  • Their low shelf life is also major concern for farmers. Bio pesticides consist primarily of living microbes; temperature fluctuations, humidity and exposure to ultraviolet radiation dampen their efficacy. Moreover, any contamination severely reduces its effectiveness in field conditions.
  • Bio pesticides are also highly dose-dependent and their effectiveness varies from climate to climate. Unlike synthetic pesticides that can be produced in desired purity and yield, it is often difficult to produce pure botanical pesticides due to the wide variations in the active and associated ingredients of the parent plants in different agro-climatic zones. This leads to variations in their physical and chemical, as well as toxicological and other related properties. Their physical, chemical or microbial contamination also complicates matters.

Way forward:

  • It would be unrealistic to expect bio pesticides to completely replace chemical pesticides. They are one of the components of integrated pest management. More research and trials on area-specific and crop-specific formulations are needed to maximise the use of bio pesticides.
  • Apart from these technical issues, there is a need of push from the authorities for promoting the bio pesticides for research, production and sensitizing the farmers. To build confidence in bio pesticides, both private and government sectors will have to come together and work with farmers at the grassroots level.
  • Government’s policy and support in providing better R&D infrastructure, ease of regulations and assuring support to farmers for using biological will also be important.
  • Chemical pesticides have a huge impact on the environment and soil fertility; hence it is high time that the shift towards bio pesticides is realized quickly so as to make our agro-ecosystems sustainable for food security in the future.

UN SDG Target 2.4 by 2030 ensure sustainable food production systems and implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, that help maintain ecosystems, that strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, extreme weather, drought, flooding and other disasters, and that progressively .

Source: The Hindu BL

Mains Question:

Q. “To make our agricultural ecosystem sustainable, we have to shift towards the use of bio pesticides”, comment. Also discuss the role of bio pesticides in food security in the future. Critically examine with example.