The Indian state of Sikkim is the world’s first 100 percent pesticide-free organic state in the world. In 2016, Sikkim beat 25 other candidates to win the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) awards for promoting sustainable food systems.
“In 2003, Sikkim banned the imports of chemical fertilizers in the state. Farmers in the state have been using organic manure since 2003… Not only has the transition from chemical fertilizers and pesticides helped the environment but it has also benefited more than 66,000 farming families. In addition to this, the number of tourists increased by over 50 percent between 2014 to 2017,” according to the Times of India.
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Government officials claim that shifting agriculture to purely organic has had a positive effect on the health of the citizens as they are receiving more nutritious food. The soil is not contaminated with chemicals. Instead, organic farming has rejuvenated the health of the soil. It has also supported the growth of wildlife and arrested the decline in the bee population.
Between 2014 and 2018, the country’s yield of large cardamom is estimated to have grown by 23 percent. Encouraged by Sikkim’s achievements, other states in the country are also implementing various policies promoting organic farming and reducing the reliance on pesticides. Neighboring country Bhutan has declared that it plans on being 100 percent organic and pesticide-free by this year.
Sikkim has adopted a pretty strict stance when it comes to plastic. “In 1998, Sikkim became the first Indian state to ban disposable plastic bags. And they actually made it happen. Shopkeepers were not given licenses if they were using plastic bags, heavy fines were imposed, and CCTV cameras were installed to keep a tab on the plastic usage,” according to CN Traveller.
In 2016, the country banned the use of packaged drinking water in government institutions. Plus, a ban on disposable thermocol cutlery and plates was also enacted.
The state was the first in the country to ban open defecation. Those caught urinating in the open will be fined. Even to get government benefits, households have to prove that they have a sanitary toilet. Sikkim encourages people to adopt a tree as a sibling or child. The tree is registered by the state and any damage is treated as a forest offense.
Pesticides in the US
The use of pesticides is a major problem in America. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that almost a billion pounds of conventional pesticides are used in the country. Millions of people are drinking pesticide polluted groundwater. Almost 70 percent of the produce sold in the U.S. has pesticide residue as per the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“Some persistent pesticides have been found to concentrate in the milk and meat of farmed animals through contaminated animal feed… as well as in fish in contaminated waters. A 20-year study by the U.S. Geological Survey, for example, found pesticides at levels potentially harmful to aquatic life in 60 percent of the country’s rivers and streams in agricultural areas (that figure jumps to 90 percent in urban areas),” according to The Guardian.
Farmers are at the most risk to pesticide exposure when compared to other people. A study that monitored 90,000 farmers and their spouses from the early 90s found that pesticides caused health issues like bone marrow cancer, asthma, Parkinson’s disease, macular degeneration, and so on.