Modern agriculture, pesticides and human health : a case of agricultural labourers in western Maharashtra

Modern agriculture practices have been great promise for economic development of nation. Farm productivity is directly proportional to use of agrochemicals as observed from the first green revolution. Improper and unsafe use of these agrochemicals, especially pesticides is not only harmful to environment but also human health. Pesticides cause 14 per cent of all known occupational injuries in agriculture and 10 per cent of all fatal injuries. The relationship between the extent of pesticide-use and signs and symptoms of illnesses due to exposure among agricultural labourers of one of the high cash crop zones of Maharashtra State (Western Maharashtra) was assessed. Total 100 agricultural labourers were interviewed with pre-tested interview schedules by using accidental sampling procedure. It is found that more than 75 per cent of labourers used either “moderately hazardous” or “highly hazardous” pesticides as classified by World Health Organisation (WHO). However, 88 per cent did not use any form of protection, while handling pesticides. Poverty and Illiteracy are greatly responsible for improper handling of pesticides.The study also found that there is ample scope for reducing pesticide exposure through training, agricultural extension and community mobilisation.