Pesticide Accumulation: A Chain of Poison


Notes to broadcasters

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The following script illustrates the dangers of pesticides to people, even people who are not applying the pesticides themselves. Promoting alternative strategies for pest management in your programs, and also the careful use of pesticides, will help to reduce the harmful effects of pesticides for both people and the environment. Many organizations around the world promote safer use of pesticides. There are also organizations that offer advice to people who are trying to farm without pesticides. A short list of some of these organizations appears in the “Resources” section of the “Voices” newsletter (September 2004, No. 72).


Many of our recent programs have focused on different methods for controlling pests on your crops. We’ve also talked about the importance of using several methods at the same time. These methods include crop rotation, fertilizing the soil, handpicking pests, and intercropping. They are all ways to control insects and other pests without using pesticides.

Many farmers still use pesticides – sometimes as well as other methods. We all know that pesticides cost money. They can also kill the “good” insects in your field. And over time, they become less effective as the insects build up a resistance to them.

Today we’re going to hear a story that shows a different side of the problems of pesticides. It’s about how pesticides can harm you, even if you’re not applying them yourself. Let’s listen to the story now…


Devika and her husband Sunil were just finishing a cup of tea after a delicious meal of rice and fish. Suddenly Devika started to feel dizzy and sick to her stomach. Then her whole body started to shake. Sunil was worried and rushed Devika to the health clinic.

The doctor at the health clinic told the couple that Devika was suffering from pesticide poisoning. Devika and Sunil were shocked. They didn’t use pesticides. They didn’t even live on a farm!


How could this have happened? It was a mystery to Sunil and Devika. But the next part of the story will explain how it happened. It will show how pesticides can move from the body of one animal to the body of another animal. It will also show how a pesticide can poison people even if they live far away from the place where the pesticide is sprayed.


Farmer Kumble lived down the road from Sunil and Devika in the next town. One day he noticed that cabbage moths were eating his cauliflower plants. He decided to spray his field with a pesticide to kill the moths.

The pesticide covered the soil and everything on it. Some of the pesticide landed on an earthworm. The earthworm got sick and couldn’t tunnel back into the soil. The next time it rained, that earthworm and many other poisoned earthworms were washed off the field into a river.

A small fish was swimming by and ate one earthworm, then another, and then another. The fish also became sick. It was so sick that it couldn’t swim fast enough to escape from a big catfish. The catfish ate so many of these poisoned fish, that its body was full of pesticides.

Along came a fisherman. That fisherman was Sunil. Sunil caught the catfish and took it home to Devika who cooked it for dinner.


Who would have thought that Devika could become sick because Farmer Kumble in the next town sprayed pesticide on his field? But, this kind of poisoning does happen because animals eat other animals.

Each time we eat part of an animal or drink its milk, we also eat some of the chemical pesticides that are in its body. We can build up large amounts of pesticide in our own bodies. These pesticides don’t usually kill us, but they can make us sick.

So what can you do to prevent yourself and others from getting sick?

Well, the best solution is not to use pesticides at all. When you spray pesticides you contaminate many things – soil, plants, animals and people.

But there may be times when you need to use pesticides. If you must use them, make sure that you understand and follow all safety precautions. If you don’t know how to use pesticides safely, get help from someone who does.

Host (cont):
Some pesticides have been banned in many countries, but they are still sold in other places. Make sure you are not using banned pesticides.

Just as you need to study and learn about pests to control them in your fields, you also need to learn about pesticides to make sure you use them safely.


Information sources

  • « Chaine toxique. » Nouvelles de Pronat. Jan/June 1998 : p. 17.