Cabbage is nothing but pesticide

This is an article by South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements (SICCFM) member – S Kannaiyan. It demonstrates the strong hold that MNCs like Syngenta and Bayer have on Indian agriculture at the cost of human health and environment. LVC South Asia has committed to promote agroecology and this article demonstrates the reason why that commitment is so important.

This article also shows that the state agriculture universities need to pull up their socks. Why is the state not promoting sustainable agriculture? why has it weakened itself and promoted MNCs instead?


Thalavady is a hilly region suited for cultivation of many different varieties of vegetables in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. One of the important crops grown in this region is cabbage. Let us see how cabbage is grown here.

Small and marginal farmers who have less than two hectares of land are cultivating cabbage. The seeds come from Monsanto and Syngenta. About, 180 grams of seeds are needed for an acre. Seeds are sold in 10 grams pockets and these cost around Rs.220/ (around 6 Euros/ 5 US dollars).

Each year cabbage is cultivated on about 3000 acres. The Department of agriculture in Tamil Nadu has no clue about this crop cultivation in Thalavady and no technical support is provided to the farmers. Then who is giving technical advice to farmers? The seed and pesticides dealers are the advisors to the farmers. I spoke to few pesticide dealers to find out what is happening.

10th day.

Ten days after sowing, 200 ml of insecticide Hostathian 40 EC[i] from Bayer along with 250 grams of Acephate[ii] are sprayed for an acre. Hostathian has a broad spectrum and is a highly toxic insecticide.

Acephate is an organophosphate foliar insecticide of moderate persistence with residual systemic activity of about 10-15 days.

20th day

Insecticide Success 480 sc[iii]  from DOW Agro sciences 150 ml per acre.

According to DOW studies Success 480 sc ( Sinosad) is a kind of natural pesticide and does not contain high toxicity but, it is still harmful to environment. In this case, Spinosad is produced by fermentation of naturally occurring bacteria (Saccharpolyspora spinosa). There are no independent studies available to establish that this pesticide is safe.

35th day

Fame 480 sc– 45 ml per acre. ( From Bayer )

This pesticide contains Flubendiamide 39.35% m/m sc. No studies are available

50th day

Insecticide Proclaim from Syngenta[iv]  50 grams

Along with insecticide Pegaus 50 WP from Syngenta[v]  1750 grams.

Proclaim contains Emamectin Benzoate and produced by Syngenta. It is worth to note here that Syngenta’s own study says that certain crops should not be harvested for 8 weeks after application and live stocks should not be allowed to graze for 21 days. If this pesticide is sprayed on the 50th day or after, cabbage could be harvested on the 85th day or within a week after. So, consumers can consume these active residues of Proclaim from Syngenta. This insecticide is also very dangerous to fish and other aquatic organisms.

Pegaus 50 WP is a very dangerous pesticide for the environment. Pegaus contains the hazardous components of diafenthiuron, poly(oxy-1,2-ethanediyl), alpha-isotridecyl-omega-hydroxy-, formaldehyde . This is also very toxic to aquatic organisms, that may cause long-term adverse effects in the aquatic environment. It is also toxic and harmful in all other respects like contact to skin, swallowing and inhalation of the substance.

70th day

Endosulphan 35 EC 500 ml[vi]

Profenophos 50 EC 500 ml

Both Endosulphon and Profenophos are very toxic pesticides which has dangerous effects on the environment and on human health. There is a strong campaign[vii] in India to ban Endosulphon.

85th day

Cabbage is harvested on 85th day or a within a week after 85th day.

All the above pesticides are very poisonous and harmful to environment and living beings. I have mentioned only about the pesticides. Farmers are spraying and trenching fungicides during the rainy season too or when they find the symptoms of the diseases.

Indian Institute of Horticulture Research(IIHR), a government of India’s central research institute has done some research on cabbage cultivation and found out inexpensive and organic methods to control pests. But, who is going to transfer these technologies to the farm fields? Moreover, farmers spray more pesticides when there is a good price for cabbage. The dealers also will advise the farmers to use more dosages citing the good price in the market. Integrated pest management (IPM) does not exist in Thalavady. And this is also the case in the neibouring Karnataka state.

Roughly around eighty percent of the inputs costs are directly transferred to multinational corporations like Monsanto, Syngenta , Bayer etc. from the resource poor farmers’ pockets. They are always the gainers and not the farmers.  Government should think of establishing the agro ecology practice and convert all the agriculture research towards farmers’ friendly and consumers friendly and ecologically sound practices.

It is really difficult to defeat these giant companies unless local resistance is built, at small farm level, by rejecting these harmful pesticides from the exploitive companies.

All Indian farmers are not educated and most of them are illiterates. The information in the label is available in English language only. So, it is difficult for the farmers to understand the contents and undertake precautions.  Normally farmers use knapsack sprayers and power sprayers to spray pesticides without using any mask or special dress to protect themselves from the pesticides. Pesticides are handled by the farmers by hand without gloves and wash their hands by using soap or soil.

I have narrated how pesticides are sprayed on cabbage. Farmers themselves eat cabbage and sell it to the market to feed the world. Farmers handle pesticides without any precaution and spray without even a mask. They literally inhale pesticide and inviting ill health. Pesticide companies, largely MNCs are counting their profit and contributing damage to the environment and ill health to farmers and farm labourers.   I know stop eating pesticide is not going to help the situation. Agro egology practice at each farm level will be the only solution.

Until then, I have stopped eating cabbage, because, it is nothing but, pesticide.