Report of Expert Committee setup on the Orders of High Court of Delhi to frame a policy for Monitoring of Pesticide Residues in Fruits & Vegetables

Report of Expert Committee setup on the Orders of High Court of Delhi to frame a policy for Monitoring of Pesticide Residues in Fruits & Vegetables.New

On the directions dated 5th March, 2014 of the Hon,ble High Court of Delhi in W.P. No. 7495/2010 –Court on its own motion Vrs. U.O.I. & Others the competent authority has decided that the report of Expert Committee to frame a policy for Monitoring of Pesticide Residues in Fruits & Vegetables.

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Residential Proximity to Methyl Bromide Use and Birth Outcomes in an Agricultural Population in California

Background: Methyl bromide, a fungicide often used in strawberry cultivation, is of concern for residents who live near agricultural applications because of its toxicity and potential for drift. Little is known about the effects of methyl bromide exposure during pregnancy.

Objective: We investigated the relationship between residential proximity to methyl bromide use and birth outcomes.

Methods: Participants were from the CHAMACOS (Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas) study (n = 442), a longitudinal cohort study examining the health effects of environmental exposures on pregnant women and their children in an agricultural community in northern California. Using data from the California Pesticide Use Reporting system, we employed a geographic information system to estimate the amount of methyl bromide applied within 5 km of a woman’s residence during pregnancy. Multiple linear regression models were used to estimate associations between trimester-specific proximity to use and birth weight, length, head circumference, and gestational age.

Results: High methyl bromide use (vs. no use) within 5 km of the home during the second trimester was negatively associated with birth weight (β = –113.1 g; CI: –218.1, –8.1), birth length (β = –0.85 cm; CI: –1.44, –0.27), and head circumference (β = –0.33 cm; CI: –0.67, 0.01). These outcomes were also associated with moderate methyl bromide use during the second trimester. Negative associations with fetal growth parameters were stronger when larger (5 km and 8 km) versus smaller (1 km and 3 km) buffer zones were used to estimate exposure.

Conclusions: Residential proximity to methyl bromide use during the second trimester was associated with markers of restricted fetal growth in our study.

Key words: birth outcomes, birth weight, fumigants, methyl bromide, pesticides, residential proximity

United States finds pesticide residue in basmati, exports plunge

NEW DELHI: Basmati rice exports to the US have plunged because many Indian firms are under an import alert by the US authorities, leading to a detailed scrutiny for pesticide residue in every grain being shipped out. This has raised costs, upset schedules and obstructed sales, prompting exporters to seek government intervention.

In the first quarter of calendar year 2013, exports were down to 19,583 tonne. With 31 Indian rice firms under US FDA import alert amid 100% scrutiny, the rice export lobby feels that the US is employing a virtual zero-tolerance policy on Indian pesticides that have been used around the world for years and raised no health concerns. US diplomatsic officials say they have discovered residues of chemicals not approved for use in the US in Indian basmati rice and such shipments have been rejected.

Indian companies see the US market as a strong branded market which sets benchmark prices and want the government to take up the issue with its US counterpart. “Exporters are very concerned about the US law and policy on the presence of residues of particular pesticides in rice,” said Rajan Sundaresan, president, All India Rice Exporters Association.

He added that without having conducted a risk assessment, the US was raising questions on pesticides that have been tested recently by other WTO members and the Codex Alimentarius (established by FAO and WHO, the agency develops international food standards), leading them to adopt minimum residue limits (MRLs) that are considerably higher than the US limit.

Four pesticides, namely Buprofezin, Carbendazim, Isoprothiolane and Tricyclazole that are commonly used by Indian farmers, have been found to be present at extremely low levels in the shipments, said Sundaresan.

“Many of the US’ trading partners like Japan and the EU and Codex have conducted risk assessments and set MRLs for these pesticides. The levels set by those MRLs do not act as a barrier to trade because the residues are comfortably below them. Meanwhile, the levels of pesticides the US authorities have detected have been far, far below these thresholds,” said Sundaresan. India annually exports 2.5-3 million tonne basmati rice, with Iran and the West Asia the biggest market.

Basmati rice exports from India to the United States have increased from 55,762 tonne in 2009 to a record 104,400 tonne in 2012. “In the previous year, Indian rice exports to the United States hit an all-time record of $140 million. We would like to continue working with Indian exporters,” said a USA diplomatic official in New Delhi.

United States finds pesticide residue in basmati, exports plunge

He added that Indian companies were still shipping rice with the United States Food and Drug Administration – which protects US and foreign consumers from food-borne contaminants – doing 100% testing rather than random sampling as a large number of violations has been reported.

“Till date, residues of eleven pesticides have been detected in imported Indian basmati rice. The eleven chemicals that are unregistered in the United States are tricyclazole, carbendazim, imidacloprid, bifenthrin, buprofezin, isoprothiolane, pirimophos methyl, triazophos, triclosan, difenoconazole, and ethoxyquin. Only carbendazim has an MRL established for rice. The other ten do not. While the three of them, tricyclazole, triclosan, and isoprothiolane, have no internationally standardized MRLs for any food products,” said the US official.

The first Indian shipment to be sent back from the American shore was in May 2011 of Amritsar-based Amar Singh Chawal Wala that sells the Lal Qila brand rice for having tricyclazole level of over 0.1 parts per million (ppm). Currently 90% of the shipments were being rejected owing to the use of tricyclazole manufactured by Dow Chemicals. “We are ageing the rice for 1-2 years to ensure the degradation of the residue. This is not a foolproof method but we have no option,” said the company’s director Arvinder Pal Singh.

According to Singh, with Dow Chemical submitting its safety data report to theEnvironmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the US six months ago, Indians were hopeful some headway could be made.

“If it was the real safety issue the world would have noticed and banned the Indian basmati rice. This is a non-tariff barrier placed by the US to negotiate with India for access to US products like dairy in Indian market,” said a leading exporter from the country.

‘Panel formed to check pesticide residues in fruit, veggies’

PTI | 07:03 PM,Mar 20,2012

New Delhi, Mar 20 (PTI) The Centre has formed an expert committee to examine periodically the fruits and vegetables, available in the open market, to ascertain if they contain pesticide residues, the Delhi High Court was informed today. Additional Solicitor General (ASG) A S Chandhiok told a bench of justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Rajiv Shakhder that the senior Union Agricultural Ministry had on February 14 convened a meeting of its senior officials with those of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and the Delhi government’s Health Ministry on the issue. “A six-member committee headed by the joint director of the Agriculture Ministry was constituted for framing a policy for periodic checks to detect pesticide residues in the vegetables and fruits,” the law officer told the court in an affidavit. Besides, Chairperson Sarita Bhalla, others members include FSSAI Director Dhir Singh, scientist N K Sharma, Delhi government’s Food Analyst S M Bhardwaj, Union Agriculture Ministry official Vipin Bhatnagar and senior advocate V K Rao in the committee, the ASG added. After perusing the affidavit, the bench suggested to the the government to include a non-government expert in the committee and posted the matter for next hearing on March 27. Counsel V K Rao, who had been appointed amicus curiae in the case by the court, had earlier suggested for a policy to conduct periodic checks on the vegetables and fruits to prevent the use of pesticides in them beyond permissible limit. The bench had asked various authorities of the Central and the state governments to convene a meeting to chalk out a solution to the problem affecting the health of citizens. (MORE)

Up to 18 pesticides found in vegetables you buy in Hyderabad: National Institute of Nutrition study

HYDERABAD: If the adage ‘you are what you eat’ is true, Hyderabadis stand the risk of exposure to lethal pesticides in the vegetables they consume. A study carried out by the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) has found that pesticide residues in some of the vegetables and fruits sold at Rythu Bazaars or by street vendors are above the internationally stipulated maximum residual levels (MRL).

Green grapes and okra (lady’s finger) are the most contaminated. The NIN study analyzed fruits and vegetables sold by Rythu Bazars and street vendors in five zones in Hyderabad: Erragadda, Kukatpally, Mehdipatnam, Falaknuma and Lal Bahadur Nagar. It assessed residual pesticide levels in egg plant (brinjal), cauliflower, okra, tomato and chilli among vegetables, and grapes and apples among fruits.

The study found that green grapes, for instance, had residues of 18 pesticides, of which five were present in all the samples analyzed. The mean concentration of imidacloprid— a pesticide rated by WHO as moderately toxic to mammals— in green grapes was found to be 0.702 mg per kg whereas the acceptable MRL for spraying it is 1 mg per kg. Among the vegetables studied, okra too registered the presence of 18 pesticides of which 11 were present in all samples.

The study, reported in the journal Food Research International, also found that pesticide residue levels were higher than those reported by similar studies published earlier. The concentration of organophosphates was found to be especially high in the vegetable samples.

“This class of pesticides can cause neurotoxicity upon prolonged exposure which would result from consumption over some 20 years,” said Dr S N Sinha of NIN’s Food and Drug Toxicology Research Centre, who conducted the studies.

The main reason for the high residue levels is the unregulated use of pesticides by farmers who have no guidance on the permissible limits, says Dr Sinha.

India does not have in place a protocol of MRLs for all the pesticides used by farmers. So far, MRLs have been set for only 185 of the 815 molecules included in the schedule to the Insecticide Act, 1968. The study therefore relies on limits set by the Food and Agriculture Organization and World Health Organization (WHO).

“There are several banned pesticides farmers continue to use as they are unaware of proper limits. Further, farmers rely on information given by unqualified retailers on the choice of pesticides and their dosage,” said Dr Sinha.

It’s eating us: Vegetables grown with pesticides and polluted water

Nilanjana S Roy / New Delhi July 16, 2011, 0:55 IST

The aloo wars of 2005 are now barely remembered, but for a brief while, the question of whether Indian potatoes were infected or not became a cross-border issue.

Pakistan quarantined the Indian aloo in September 2005 as part of a larger vegetable skirmish, but after a barrage of virus tests and some discreet diplomacy, the offending potatoes were finally allowed to cross the Wagah border.

In 2005, the health risks of vegetables were just about becoming part of mainstream concern — they took a back seat to the rampant scare stories caused by the spread of mad cow disease. Western markets worried far more about salmonella and e coli outbreaks, though in India many activists had begun to discuss the risks of pesticides in vegetables. But given debates over poor slaughterhouse conditions and concerns over bird flu, vegetables took a back seat to headlines that spoke of thousands of chickens and ducks being slaughtered in Tripura.
Most of our vegetable battles have either been very specific — the debate over BT brinjal and GM foods, for instance, which is an ongoing and complex one — or media-driven scares. There’s a brief period when people stop eating spinach, or brinjal, and then the conversation moves on.

But perhaps we should be paying more attention to the veggies on our plate. In a way, many of us do, but we internalise the debates. Many Delhi oldtimers won’t buy or eat watermelon; the images of watermelons grown in the toxic, pollution-laden waters of the Yamuna are very sharp, even though toxic watermelon may well be just as safe or unsafe as other fruits, as I’ll explain.

The recent e coli outbreaks in Europe offer a sense of how food safety norms have shifted from fears of contaminated meat and fish to fears of vegetables, often contaminated by the infected run-off from cattle or sheep grazing nearby. In the last few years, the culprit in many of the e coli scares in the West has not been meat — Spanish cucumbers, Californian spinach, and, most recently, Egyptian fenugreek sprouts have been to blame.

What is more alarming for Indians is that every independent study of Indian vegetables confirms that they contain unusually high levels of pesticides. Studies done by Consumer Voice and by the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture reveal a wide range of chemically dangerous substances in vegetables from cauliflower to bitter gourd, spinach and parwal, including malathion, chlordane and DDT. The amounts in which Indians ingest pesticide in their vegetables, grains, cereals and spices are significantly higher than, say, most EU citizens, in part because the laws governing the use of pesticides in the country haven’t been updated for 30 years.

This is not new information, though it’s buttressed by new studies. But it’s surprising how little discussion we have of these issues in the public domain, and how few studies have looked at the health effects on Indians who’ve now been consuming pesticides in vast amounts for at least a 10-15 year period. Another outbreak of food hysteria wouldn’t be of much use — as the wide range of vegetables and cereals affected shows, this is not a problem you can deal with by abjuring aubergines, so to speak. Nor can more than a small section of consumers afford to switch over to eating organic veggies, setting aside the confusion over what constitutes organically-farmed vegetables in India.

What we really need is a much more focused public debate on food safety.

“Tell me what you eat, and I shall tell you what you are,” Brillat-Savarin famously wrote. That, in today’s world, is a very alarming offer.

Nilanajana S Roy is a Delhi-based writer