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Eat this: Pesticides in your food

The Americans have just finished celebrating Thanksgiving, and kicked in the festive season that goes on all the way till the New Year.

india Updated: Nov 30, 2005 15:55 IST

The Americans have just finished celebrating Thanksgiving, and kicked in the festive season that goes on all the way till the New Year.

Apparently, the Pesticide Action Network in California tells us that it seems that with all the celebration and feasting, there is also reason to be sombre. With each bite, people may be taking in more pesticides than they ever thought of. According to the Centre for Disease Control, each American carries an average of 13 pesticides in their body, all of which can cause havoc. The only alternative to this is to switch to organic food, which is good not only for consumers, but farmers too. After all, they don't get exposed to the poisons when they work.

We all know that Manisha Verma, the district collector who fought drought relief scams is transferred out good and proper for fighting to get food and relief to those who were starving in her district Sholapur. In all this, one point we missed was the poor understanding of drought. Drought, as some NGOs such as Earthlink define it, is when there is no water, no food, no fodder for the cattle, no employment and a feeling of helplessness and a fear that nothing's going to change.

It's not just a lack of rainfall and environmental factors. Sure, these are important precipitating factors, but they are greatly augmented by the way in which governance and society is organised, both in its response and in other, better times. Time after time, the experience of hunger and drought shows how poor governance and lack of transparency and accountability is to blame much more than environmental causes beyond our control.

In Maharashtra, the unique Poorest Areas Civil Society Programme has actually got a range of NGOs to work on diverse issues in some of the poorest districts. Reports from participants in this programme reveal how devastatingly close to the brink the situation really is. For example, there isn't even clean drinking water or fodder for the cattle in most of Marathwada. But did you ever know of all this, of the mess in our midst?

Our ecological systems support us only to the degree they can, which is why over-consumption leads to enormous resource depletion and its iniquitous distribution. More often than not, it's the poor with their low negotiating power who fail to stake their claims.

Drought is a part of this structure. That's why, despite poor monsoons in many other parts of India, the well-heeled aren't complaining of hunger. And that's why it is vital to stop painting drought and hunger as an environmental disaster.

(If you feel for planet Earth, write toearthwatch1@yahoo.co.in)

First Published: Nov 30, 2005 15:55 IST