Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Gene poisoning: Genotoxicity in cotton farmers spraying pesticides in Guntur district

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad:  Farmers in the State run the risk of “gene
poisoning” (genotoxicity) thanks to heavy use of chemical pesticides.
Some of them now suffer from chromosomal aberrations leading to
certain genetic problems.

Researchers from Osmania University, Mahavir Medical Research Centre,
National Institute of Nutrition and Kamineni Hospitals have found that
chromosomal aberrations were significantly higher in farmers exposed
to chemical pesticides. “About 2.8 per cent of farmers, who use
chemical pesticides, in Guntur district showed genotoxicity. This is
against just 0.72 per cent of farmers, who do not use pesticides,
suffering from the genetic issues,” they pointed out.

As part of the study, the city teams selected about 150 cotton
farmers. Since cotton is prone to severe pests, farmers use chemical
sprays indiscriminately on the crop. The use of pesticides had not
come down even after introduction of Bt cotton, which is supposed to
be pest resistant.

Andhra Pradesh has the dubious distinction of consuming the highest
quantity of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and only a couple of
years, the State government banned about 30 harmful pesticides. Over
the years, the soil texture has undergone a sea change due to use of
chemicals. Soils in many places have turned either saline or alkaline
necessitating scientific intervention to restore the natural texture.
The city researchers have shown that chemical pesticides not only
affect the soil texture, but also cause chromosomal aberrations.

They also found a correlation between chromosomal aberration frequency
and exposure to certain pesticides. The higher their exposure to the
pesticide residue the greater the genetic damage in farmers.
Chromosomal aberrations in adults often pass on to the next
generation, affecting the offspring.

The city researchers collected blood samples from the cotton farmers
and conducted chromosomal aberration and micronucleus tests.
Chromosomal aberrations were higher in farmers exposed to pesticide
residues. However, there was little damage to the micronucleus.

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