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Kerala worried over to the risks of pesticide in food

pesticide in food

Food-deficient Kerala, increasingly worried over the high doses of chemical contamination in its food supplies, is stepping up its guard against pesticide residues in vegetables and fruits coming from other States.

The State Government is putting in place measures to lower the level of pesticides, including a proposal to carry out field inspections to create awareness among farmers. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy called a meeting of top officials on Tuesday to discuss the issue. The meeting decided to set up an agency for inter-State coordination so that only safe-to-eat vegetables and fruits would arrive in Kerala. The authority will be headed by Food Safety Commissioner TV Anupama and will include senior officials from several government departments.

Serious issue

Serious issue“Vegetable contamination is a very serious issue as it causes serious health risks,” Anupama told BusinessLine. “A Kerala Agricultural University study and our own tests on vegetables procured from the market show high levels of harmful pesticide residues.”

She said that a huge chunk of the State’s vegetable supplies came from Tamil Nadu and some quantities from Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh as well. Farmers there, in their enthusiasm to boost output and increase shelf life, often used pesticides, many of which are banned, in high doses. The Kerala Food Safety Authority has identified 13 vegetables, including curry leaves and chillies, which contained extremely high levels of pesticide residue.

In the recent years, several reports have pointed to the health risks of the vegetables, fruits, meat, chicken, rice and wheat coming to Kerala from other States. Chicken was found containing high levels antibiotics (this would cause resistance to antibiotics in human beings); fish sprinkled with formalin (used to preserve dead bodies); and rice coated with harmful preservatives. Apple and grapes are among the most-contaminated fruits in the market. Endosulfan, a pesticide banned in Kerala, was found to have been extensively used on vegetables and fruits coming from outside.

Organic farming

Organic farming
Media reports about contamination in the past few years have triggered a tiny “grow your own vegetables” movement in Kerala. Farming on house terraces is catching on. A couple of years ago, the Agriculture Department launched a scheme to supply “grow bags” containing seedlings of certain essential vegetables. And, in parallel, an organic vegetable cultivation drive is also on.

(This article was published November 19, 2014 on The Hindu )

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