the resolve to rid agriculture of chemical fertilisers and pesticides, expressed by Sikkim an year ago, has been given a shot in the arm by Mizoram. The state made history by becoming the first in the country to legislate for turning its entire agricultural produce organic. It passed the Mizoram Organic Farming Act, 2004 on July 12, 2004. Sikkim is yet to pass a similar legislation.
Mizoram has only done what the Union government has always prescribed in its National Programme for Organic Production (npop), launched four years ago, but never really practiced. When Mizoram governor, A R Kohli, announced the state’s intention of going organic three months ago at a seminar in Delhi, critics questioned the ability of any state to completely do away with the usage of pesticides and fertilisers. But they perhaps missed the fact that the two states are among the lowest consumers of pesticides and fertilisers in the country. In fact, this is a trait common to all northeastern states (see table: Non-toxic northeast).
Only about 25 per cent of Mizoram’s cultivators, comprising 55 per cent of the total population, use chemicals in their crops. O P Singh, director, ministry of agriculture, Mizoram, says: “A very small quantum of fertilisers is being used, that too primarily for rice and vegetables grown in plains. People don’t use fertilisers and pesticides even for the rice grown on hills. Our passion fruit, turmeric, ginger, orange and pineapples are completely organic. So is chilly, sesame and hill potato.” Singh also points out that the move towards organic is not sudden in the state. In 2000, the Mizoram government had removed subsidies on fertilisers and pesticides. It also controlled their private sales by making licensing compulsory.
Some critics have panned Mizoram’s legislation, claiming it has too many loopholes. They say it is excessively dependent upon the government, which has to issue notifications and rules from time to time to give it teeth. Besides, it doesn’t talk about turning all the areas organic right away, nor does it fix any particular timeframe for the actions to be taken. It has been left to the state’s discretion to demarcate designated areas for organic production. But Singh defends the Act: “Though the minister for agriculture, H Rammawi, wanted us to declare the entire state (besides the three autonomous districts of Mara, Lai and Chakma) organic, the department suggested we demarcate areas after checking fertiliser usage patterns as the decision should not cause short-term harm to farmers using fertilisers in some areas.” He promises that the state government advisory body would soon do so and also set up a timeframe.
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