Indian Pesticide Pollution

The rich West has become used to cheap clothes. Walk into several high street stores and you can find T-shirts for £4 and pairs of jeans for £10.

Much of the cotton used in these garments is grown in India, the second largest producer of cotton in the world – the weather is well suited, labour is cheap and environmental regulations are less stringent (and less stringently enforced) than many other parts of the world.

Unfortunately cotton has many pests, and in order to maintain yields Indian farmers have been resorting to using ever larger quantities of pesticides, particularly as pests have become increasingly resistant. As a result cotton production accounts for more than half of India’s pesticide usage, even though it occupies only 5% of its agricultural land !

this reliance of large quantities of pesticides causes problems, but not only because of the volumes – it is often inappropriately applied by illiterate farmers – often at the wrong times of year, in the wrong weather or using ineffective techniques. Workers are often left unprotected, and regularly exposed to direct contact with high levels of pesticides, with many significant health consequences.

The organochlorine pesticide endosulfan, in particular, is in common use in Indian cotton growing, years after it’s widespread banning throughout most of the rest of the world. Agreement to phase it out was finally reached in 2011, as a result of increasing health concerns.

As with many of the things we buy in the globalized market, we tend to be ignorant of the effects of our consumption on the environment, and most vulnerable around the world – and cheap clothing is no exception. If we want to avoid our clothes being responsible for such far off impacts, we need to research our purchases carefully, buy organic cotton garments more often, buy second hand, or perhaps just consider buying fewer clothes overall . . . just a thought.


Photo by KimberleyKV, via Flickr

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  1. India’s Plastic Pollution Solution Gyre Clean Up ProjectDescription : World Business: Indian Plastic Pollution 22/04/2011. Runtime: 6:09. Watch this video to learn more about what India is doing to cut down on their plastic plutloion and actually help their economy. ..

  2. Lorna Prescott says:

    This is something which really concerns me, so when I do buy clothes, I buy organic cotton (online from People Tree, Patagonia, Ascension etc) or second hand clothes from charity shops. The Ethical Consumer guides are great if you need a bit of guidance – here’s a link to the guide for high street clothes (I try to boycott the shops on the list, but recognise that isn’t easy for everyone).
    Your post does make me wonder if people would be more worried about this if it was happening on their doorstep.

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