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Pesticide-rich food

8 Comments
Feb 15, 2011 | From the print edition

Agriculture department confirms high pesticide residues

THE country’s regulators have failed to check the flow of pesticides into the food chain, suggests a monitoring report of the Department of Agriculture and the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, the country’s premier institute. Fruits, vegetables, poultry and milk are all laced with high pesticide residues —much above the maximum residue limits (MRL) set by the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act of 1954. Samples of Amul milk collected from Ahmedabad, for instance, had the highest traces of chlorpyriphos, a known carcinogen that can also cause neural disorders.

The report, which analysed sample food items from 13 states in 20 laboratories across the country between 2008 and 2009, also found several food had residues of pesticides that are either banned in the country or are recommended for restricted use. DDT, for instance, is not recommended for vegetables.

imageBut traces of it—108 times the recommended MRL—was found in tomatoes. Residues of banned pesticides like aldrin, chlordane, chlorfenyinfos and heptachlor were found in samples of vegetables, apple, rice, wheat, milk and butter; most were from Uttar Pradesh.

“The report shows a lapse in the regulatory system,” said G V Ramanjaneyulu, executive director of the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, a non-profit in Hyderabad. “Never has a state agriculture officer visited the fields to see which pesticides we use and in what proportions,” said Kultar Singh, farmer from Faridkot in Punjab. Monocrotophos, a pesticide recommended only for cotton farms, is used extensively on vegetables in Punjab, Singh added.

Though the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has uploaded the report on its website, the government is in no mood to own the data in its entirety. When asked about the report, the agriculture department refused to comment and there was no response from the Central Insecticides Board, responsible for regulating pesticides.

An official associated with the report, on condition of anonymity, said the government has informed state agriculture departments about food items that had high pesticide residues. But the report’s data on banned pesticides are “unconfirmed”, “inaccurate” and have “a few aberrations”, he said, blaming it on “evolving technology” in the laboratories. The data for 2009-10 would be accurate as technologies have improved, he added. His claim, though, raise question over the data generated by these laboratories for a decade now.

imageThe report also brings to light the failure of state agriculture departments and extension services in ensuring that farmers use only recommended pesticides for a particular crop or pest. Tea samples from Assam, for instance, had 4.280 ppm (parts per million) fenpropathrin. The UN food standards, CODEX, fixes its MRL at 2 ppm.

The Central Insecticides Board does not recommend it for use in tea plants and has not fixed its MRL under the prevention of food adulteration (PFA) Act. The official said Tea Board of India is lately promoting fenpropathrin as replacement for dicofol, a miticide. Instead of cracking the whip on the Tea Board, the agriculture ministry is contemplating label expansion, meaning, expanding the use of a particular pesticide for more crops.

Ramanjaneyulu said there is not enough research by agriculture universities to support label expansion. In fact, several pesticides like fenpropathrin do not have set MRL due to lack of research and their residues are never traced in food in the country, he added. The report also shows fruits from US and China contain high pesticide residues, including the banned aldrin.

While Indian exports go through a tight scrutiny, it seems the checks for what India eats are missing. FSSAI, which is responsible for ensuring a safe food supply, has just issued an advisory to state food authorities to take legal action for violation of the PFA Act.

AddThis

Why only pesticides, what about other industrial pollutants? What about growth hormones and even antibiotics in centralized industrial milk and meat produce ! What about vegetables from lands irrigated using Musi water and milk from Buffaloes fed on grass grown along the banks of our Musi river? Traditional Tanks in coastal areas under canal irrigation are saturated with agrochemicals and chemicals from Aqua farms. Ground water is polluted. Do we know what chemicals are present in the drinking water being supplied by our Metros and Municipalities and even in Plachimada Panchayath? One should not hazard a guess on the radioactive impact on natural resources around NFCL and Nuclear power plants. Udayashankar

1 February 2011
Posted by
KICS Agriculture

"DDT, for instance, is not recommended for vegetables." What exacting is DDT recommended for, and who is making the recommendations?

2 February 2011
Posted by
Anonymous

Perhaps it is time that Agriculture-Universities across India, initiate a branch to study, disseminate information and send volunteer-final-year students to the fields to regularly monitor water-quality and publish this in their periodicals and journals. This is a valuable public service and can double as A VITAL EDUCATIONAL PROGRAM for all students and give Universities a additional value, while people endlessly discuss how to pay for such programs.

5 February 2011
Posted by
Anonymous

Yeh videshi sadyantra he BHARAT ko barbaad karne ka. Hamare Desh ke NETAs bike huye he. Hamare Desh me Mr. Subhas Palekar jese YOGI Purush he jinki ZBNF technique ko apnane se pura desh firse khushal ho sakta he.

12 March 2014
Posted by
Sadanand Singh Bhadauria

It bothers me immensely as to the quality of food that I procure from the market and make available to my family. Why are we not all up in arms against the Hon'ble Agriculture Minister?

8 February 2011
Posted by
Swarna

Is there any means to wash away the pesticide residue in vegetables and fruits? can we remove them by washing them with water? is there any other means which we do at our homes?

27 March 2012
Posted by
gayathri

Perhaps it is time that Agriculture-Universities across India initiate a branch to study, disseminate information and send volunteer-final-year students to the fields to regularly monitor water-quality and Municipalities and even in Plachimada Panchayath? One should not hazard a guess on the radioactive impact on natural resources around NFCL and Nuclear power plants. Udayashankar.

2 June 2013
Posted by
Fotowoltaika

"DDT, for instance, is not recommended for vegetables." What exacting is DDT recommended for, and who is making the recommendations?

1 February 2014
Posted by
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