Better With Coke
By John Vidal
09 November, 2004
farmers have come up with what they think is the real thing to keep
crops free of bugs. Instead of paying hefty fees to international chemical
companies for patented pesticides, they are reportedly spraying their
cotton and chilli fields with Coca-Cola.
In the past month
there have been reports of hundreds of farmers turning to Coke in Andhra
Pradesh and Chattisgarh states.
But as word gets
out that soft drinks may be bad for bugs and a lot cheaper than anything
that Messrs Monsanto, Shell and Dow can offer, thousands of others are
expected to switch.
Gotu Laxmaiah, a
farmer from Ramakrishnapuram in Andra Pradesh, said he was delighted
with his new cola spray, which he applied this year to several hectares
of cotton. "I observed that the pests began to die after the soft
drink was sprayed on my cotton," he told the Deccan Herald newspaper.
Coca-Cola has had
a bad year in India.
Other farmers in
Andra Pradesh state accused the company of over-extracting underground
water for its bottling plants and a government committee upheld findings
that drinks made in India by itself and PepsiCo contained unacceptable
amounts of pesticide residue.
But Mr Laxmaiah
and others say their cola sprays are invaluable because they are safe
to handle, do not need to be diluted and, mainly, are cheap.
One litre of highly
concentrated Avant, Tracer and Nuvocron, three popular Indian pesticides,
costs around 10,000 rupees (£120), but one-and-a-half litres of
locally made Coca-Cola is 30 rupees. To spray an acre would be a mere
It is clearly not
Coke's legendary "secret" ingredient that is upsetting the
bugs. The farmers also swear by Pepsi, Thums Up, and other local soft
The main ingredients
of all colas are water and sugar but some manufacturers add citric and
phosphoric acids to give that extra bite to human taste buds.
Yesterday a leading
Indian agriculture analyst, Devinder Sharma, said: "I think Coke
has found its right use. Farmers have traditionally used sugary solutions
to attract red ants to feed on insect larvae.
"I think the
colas are also performing the same role."
The properties of
Coke have been discussed for years. It has been reported that it is
a fine lavatory cleaner, a good windscreen wipe and an efficient rust
from China claimed that the ill-fated New Coke was widely used in China
as a spermicide.
Yesterday a spokesman
for Coca-Cola in Atlanta said: "We are aware of one isolated case
where a farmer may have used a soft drink as part of his crop management
do not act in a similar way to pesticides when applied to the ground
or crops. There is no scientific basis for this and the use of soft
drinks for this purpose would be totally ineffective".