A skull and crossbones would be the last thing you would find on a can of Coca-Cola, but farmers in India are using it to replace poisons that do. Looking to save a few rupees, farmers in Andrah Pradesh and Chattisgarh states have taken to spraying cotton and chili fields with The Real Thing.

Ars Technica:

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.

The main reason why Coke has become popular for use as a pesticide is cost. Traditional pesticides cost around 10,000 rupees per liter, but a liter and half of Coke costs only 30 rupees. While there is no scientific proof of Coke’s effectiveness as a pesticide, analysts suggest sugar in the cola attracts red ants that feed on insect larvae. I guess Diet Coke might not kill like the Real Thing… although other farmers say Pepsi and local soft drinks are just as effective.

It is not known who was the first Indian farmer to use Coke as a bug killer, but I may have a reason why they tried. In August of last year, independent testing of soft drinks bottled in India found pesticide levels significantly higher than European Economic Commission limits.

Seriously, a Google search for India +coke +pesticide turns up almost 5000 hits, the majority of which focus on a controversy about excessive pesticide levels in Coke (and Pepsi) sold in India. This site is one of many with more information on this issue.