The Pesticide in Our Cumin

Cumin is an important ingredient used in almost all dishes in India, and it is associated with the country's spice history. But today, due to high level of pesticide usage in farming, it has become synonymous with slow poison.
The Pesticide in Our Cumin

People usually have something common in their meal. One such is cumin which is used in different dishes. However, the cumin that gives a good flavour to your dishes may also endanger your life. This is revealed in a report released by the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Government of India.

According to the report ,cumin produced in Rajasthan is highly poisonous due to high usage of pesticides and other agrochemicals. The research report by All India Network Project on Pesticide Residues is awaited. According to a report published by a media house, pesticides content in cumin seeds is many times more than the minimum acceptable level.

Cumin cannot be grown in foggy and dewy atmosphere. Thus farmers in the Marwar region of Rajasthan produce it at large scale. The average cumin production per hectare in Rajasthan is much higher than other parts of the country. The total arable land area in which cumin is harvested in India is around 429 thousand hectares. And Rajasthan alone accounts for 169 thousand hectares, around 40 percent of the country.

It shows the importance of the state in cumin production in the country. The cumin of Rajasthan is sold in Unjha and many other mandis along Khari Baoli in Delhi. Then, this cumin reaches your plate through many smaller mandis in the country. 

According to NS Parihar, the person in-charge of the research, during the last five years, every month four samples from seven districts – Jodhpur, Barmer, Ajmer, Jalaur, Pali, Bhilwada and Nagaur – were taken. In 60 percent of the samples the amount of pesticides exceeded one PPM (part per million), the found quantity was around two to four PPM.

BN Sharma, a member of the research team, said that cumin producers use high amount of pesticides. Farmers mix eight grams of mancozeb fungicide in one litre of water instead of two grams. According to Sharma, fungi usually grow on cumin crop when the crops are ripe. But the manner in which farmers spray mencozeb is done recklessly. As a result, the crop absorbs it and it becomes harmful for consumption. After a certain interval, around four kinds of pesticides are sprayed on crop. And to make it worse, many dangerous and banned pesticides are also sprayed on the crops. Some of the pesticides, organoklorin, organophosphate and Synthetic Pyrethroids  are capable to harm vital human organs.

Pankaj Joshi, who runs a pesticide agency, says that there is no provision or consultation from the Government of Rajasthan for the farmers. Thus farmers end up going to the retailers rather than the concerned department, and retailers usually give a long list of these costly pesticides to the farmers out of greed. In this practice, the largest benefit, apparently, goes to the manufacturers.

The Department of Agriculture allows using the poisonous pesticide monocrotophos only for cotton crop. But due to the absence of a monitoring body this is used in the cumin farming on large scale. This has even resulted to easy availability of foret insecticide, a banned product, in the open markets. When raised this matter, the commissioner at the agriculture department of Rajasthan assured that the issue will be addressed.

According to doctors, consuming these kinds of poisons through food is a slow and dangerous activity. It harms the immune system.  Monocrotophos can badly affect kidneys and liver of humans. Similarly, Synthetic Pyrethroids becomes the reason of allergy while foret can cause cancer. In some areas raw cumin is used for medicinal purpose, and consuming raw cumin is much more harmful.

Unmonitored usage of pesticides has not only made cumin consumption dangerous but has also endangered the entire farming.

Nasir Khilji, an agriculture researcher from Jodhpur, says that changes at large scale have taken place in the soil texture due to cumin farming. Few years ago farmers used to work in the farms barefoot, it was never an issue for their health, but with the soil becoming more poisonous it could cause skin problems.

Khilji is conscious that if the level of poison increases in the soil continuously then it could be compared with the agricultural land of Marwar in Punjab which is highly affected by agrochemical.

Some of the cumin farmers of Marwar say that the farm land here is losing its fertility fast. Harinarayan Chaudhary, a cumin farmer from the Jairatan village in Pali district, says, “The land has gone infertile and it has become impossible to produce cumin without fertilizer. Along with this, the high usage of pesticides is also killing earthworms and many soil friendly insects. Even some of the cumin friendly insects, which eat the anti cumin pests, are also killed by the massive usage of pesticides.”

According to the former vice-chancellor of Agricultural University, Uadaipur, “Government policies should be held accountable for this disaster which has led farmers to use pesticides in the name of modernisation. Through this modernisation market forces entered cumin farming and made the farmers dependent on them. The extreme usage of pesticides has increased the resistance of the pests and insects, and in response farmers have also been increasing the usage of pesticides.”

Some cumin farmers say that there are no alternatives to spraying pesticides, and it has become a compulsion for them. And if they don’t use then the crops will get destroyed. Consequently, the cost of cumin farming has increased usage high usage of pesticides. Every year the cost of cumin farming increases and at the same time the quality of it decreases. Finally, it has become a vicious cycle in which cumin farmers of Rajasthan as well as cumin consumers of across the country suffer from the poison of pesticides.

The Changing Face of Rural India