The World Health Organisation (WHO) has reported that a widely-used farm chemical causes cancer in humans. After evaluating the insecticides gamma-hexachlorocyclohexane (lindane), dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and the herbicide 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), all widely used agricultural chemicals since before WWII, their specialized agency dedicated to cancer research has found all three chemicals to be carcinogenic. These are however, key ingredients in herbicides used by farmers in Pakistan against weeds.

A senior official in the Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC) confirmed the news, stating that the IARC had reviewed recent scientific literature and decided to classify them as ‘possibly carcinogenic to humans’. If this is true, why are we still using them in our fertilizers?

These ingredients have been used in Pakistan since before 1999. Existing documents show that the Cotton Research Institute (CRI) in Multan has been against the use of 2, 4-D since 2000, where they maintain that the chemicals are injurious to the cotton crop. If there was some awareness about the detrimental effects, why we are still importing them for the cotton season, is beyond comprehension. Is it the monetary benefit being provided to the government? Or is it simply that they are indifferent to the effect it is having on the quality of food being given to the population at large?

The incidence of cancer is on the rise in Pakistan but the concerned government authorities have not been giving due attention to it. These are times when chemicals and toxins have become the greatest cause of it. Through lack of quality control regarding fertilisers and pesticides, the contamination in our food is on a sharp rise.

The health ministry should raise this issue and educate the masses about the hazardous nature of these pesticides, while the EPA should lobby to ban the use of such chemicals. Most importantly, there should be accountability over why such a lack of regulation and

concern exists in the first place.