Some 25 pesticides are banned for manufacture, import and use in India. Two other pesticides and formulations are banned for use in the country but their manufacture is allowed for export, it has been revealed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
As India grapples with this complex issue at the intersection of agricultural productivity and environmental safety, the government has also acknowledged that there are four pesticide formulations banned for "import, manufacture and use" and another seven pesticides on the "withdrawn" list.
Another 18 pesticides have been "refused registration". In some cases, the pesticide industry has failed to submit "complete data" about their products, officials said.
In an RTI application reply to information campaigner Harikumar P of Kasargod in Kerala, the ministry of agriculture's secretary S Kulshrestha said the "main reason for banning" pesticides was that some "involved a health hazard to human beings, animals and damage to the environment."
Kulshrestha added that others had been placed in the "withdrawn" list, as "these are likely to cause risk to human beings and animals as their safety cannot be fully established for want of complete data asked for from the pesticide industry."
Thirty-seven pesticides are on the list "under review" for their "continued use or otherwise" in the country. Included here are organophosphate insecticide monocrotophos, seen in the West as acutely toxic to birds and banned in the US and elsewhere.
Large bird kills, especially of Swainson's Hawks from the prairies and grasslands of western North America, have been reported allegedly from the use of monocrotophos.
On the 'banned' pesticides and formulations list are aldrin, Benzene hexachloride, Calcium cyanide, Chlordane, Copper cetoarsenite, Cibromochloropropane, Endrin, Ethel mercury chloride, Ethyl parathion, Heptachlor, Menzaone, Nitrofen, Paraquat dimethyl suplhate, Pentachlorophenol, Phenyl mercury acetate, Sodium methane arsonate, Tetradifon, Toxafen, aldicarb, Chlorobenzilate, Dieldrine, Maleic hydrazide, Ethylene dibromide, and TCA (trichloro acetic acid).
India has currently banned for use two pesticides and formulations - the suspected neurotoxicant nicotin sulfate and the Bangalore-manufactured broad-spectrum protective contact fungicide captafol 80 per cent powder - but their manufacture is allowed for export.
Pesticides - substances used for preventing, destroying, repelling or lessening the damage of pests - are known to have an impact on the environment, on farmers and on consumers. Pesticide residues in food have also been a cause for concern.
Used since before 2,500 BCE, the first known pesticide was elemental sulfur dusting used in Sumeria about 4,500 years ago. By the 15th century, toxic chemicals such as arsenic, mercury and lead were being applied to crops to kill pests.
In the 17th century, nicotine sulfate was extracted from tobacco leaves for use as an insecticide. The 19th century saw the introduction of two more natural pesticides, pyrethrum, which is derived from chrysanthemums, and rotenonem, derived from the roots of tropical vegetables.
In 1939, Paul Müller discovered that DDT was a very effective insecticide. By the 1960s, DDT was found to be preventing many fish-eating birds from reproducing, threatening biodiversity.
DDT is now banned in at least 86 countries, but it is still used in parts of the world, seen as needed to prevent malaria and other tropical diseases by killing mosquitoes and other disease-carrying insects.
Figures available indicate that global pesticide use has increased 50-fold since 1950, and 2.5 million tonnes of industrial pesticides are now used each year worldwide.
Currently, India has 203 pesticides registered under Section 9(3) of the Insecticide Act 1968.