Campaign for pesticide residue-free food
, TNN | Jun 25, 2012, 06.56PM IST

NEW DELHI: The farm fresh vegetables that you hand-pick from markets everyday are in most cases deceptive. As much as you try to pick the ones with no pests or rotten edges, they may be much more toxic within.
According to the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA), out of the top 15 most-consumed pesticides in India, 11 figure in the list of 67 globally-banned pesticides. ASHA launched ‘India For Safe Food’ campaign on Monday, to raise awareness among consumers about the health impacts of consuming pesticide laced vegetables and urged the government to ensure safe food for all.

Interestingly, pesticide residues in food was also the theme of actor, Amir Khan’s latest television chat show aired on Sunday. ASHA members who participated in the show presented data to substantiate their claims about how pesticide residues can lead to chronic health problems like cancer.

“Scientific studies have shown that pesticide exposure is correlated with serious health risks including cancers, endocrine disruption causing reproductive health disorders, organ damage, and immune system impairment. There is also much that is wrong with the regulatory system and approach related to chemical pesticides in the country. There are fundamental ways in which the issue has to be addressed, by changes in our technological approach to agriculture as well as in our regulatory approach. We hope to bring about a change collectively, through citizens’ involvement””, explained G V Ramanjaneyulu of Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Hyderabad.

He added that studies have indicated that in India, vegetables, fruits, staple cereals and pulses, meat, milk, eggs and poultry, drinking water and processed foods/beverages are contaminated with poisonous residues to various degrees. “”Delhi High Court’s own testing showed impermissible pesticides in the samples that were picked up. Our export consignments being rejected for their toxic residues are another indicator of the state of affairs,” Ramanjaneyulu said.

The campaign will have a public outreach effort mainly through online mobilization and cyber-action through emails. In Delhi, an organic food mela is being organized on June 30 and July 1 as part of the campaign; in Bangalore, a safe food mela, combined with urban gardening orientation is scheduled for the next weekend. There will be a public march against pesticides at Bathinda, in Punjab’s Malwa belt June 27.

ASHA demanded that the government make appropriate investments be made to promote ecological farming, to ensure access to organic food by establishing safe food outlets and using public distribution system (PDS), providing pesticide-free food under various food schemes to pregnant and lactating women and children and banning those pesticides that have been banned in other countries and known to have chronic health impacts.

‘High pesticide levels in Delhi groundwater’, TNN | Jun 18, 2012, 06.06AM IST

NEW DELHI: The groundwater that most of Delhi relies on when water shortage leaves taps dry is probably far more contaminated than we can imagine.

A recent study by a team from the civil engineering department of IIT-Delhi on the groundwater quality in the Palla-Burari region has made some alarming revelations. The water samples tested from this area contain moderately high levels of pesticides; some of them residues of long-banned pesticides, such as DDT. This region has close to 80 borewells and five Ranney wells that meet about 15% of Delhi’s water needs.

The team tested the water samples for organochloride pesticides (OCP) that breakdown very slowly in the environment. Many of these pesticides disrupt the endocrine system and mimic the body’s natural hormones causing havoc in the hormonal system. The study says these pesticides can lead to serious longterm health hazards.

Samples were collected from 21 borewells and tested for 17 varieties of OCPs. Three samples tested positive for all 17 targeted OCPs. The most frequently occurring pesticide residues were of aldrin, a byproduct of insecticide lidane, endosulfan and even DDT. “Yes, we found residues of even pesticides that are banned. It’s worrying because these pesticides remain in the environment for very long,” said professor Atul K Mittal, who headed the study. The most commonly occurring pesticide in the water samples was aldrin.

Though the concentrations of pesticides were not higher than the standards set by Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), in many cases the samples had higher concentration of pesticides than the WHO and EU standards. “In case of organochloride pesticides, the concentration is not so much a worry as the fact that we are continuously exposed to them. They stay in our environment for a long time. Such exposure can be directly linked to higher incidence of cancer, reduced fertility, thyroid disruption and other health problems,” said Pravin Mutiyar Suthar, one of the researchers in the study.

The same team also conducted a larger study of the entire Ganga basin covering Uttarakhand, UP and Bihar. The results showed that different types of OCPs predominate in different regions depending upon land-use pattern. HCH, a byproduct of insecticide lidane, was detected mostly in the mountainous stretch (Uttarakhand), the water in UP contained more of endosulfan residues and the Bihar region contained more of the aldrin group of pesticides.

Both the Palla-Burari water quality study and Ganga basin study were published in the journal Drinking Water Engineering and Science this year. The team is continuing to test samples from Yamuna and surrounding areas.

Food As Toxin: a new book from CSE

Modern food regulation is about  determining what is that right dose in our daily diet.  We know pesticides are toxins, chemicals designed to kill insects and other creatures at low doses. Unless human exposure to toxins is regulated and minimised, there are serious health implications. Therefore, it is critical to determine the amount of pesticides we can be exposed to over a lifetime and to regulate the registration and use oftoxins in our agriculture and in food.
In the past 10 years, the debate over the use of pesticides and its implications for human health has been fought over strenuously in India. The country has learnt about the cases of pesticide abuse and there have been calls for stringent bans on its use.
This means that the food we eat is, by and large, unsafe for consumption. Or in other words, regulation is designed to ensure that food is unsafe for humans.


It is for this reason that we urgently need a complete revamp of the entire regulatory system so that human health is not compromised.


Read about all these and more on the various food items we eat and how to cope with the issues that these bring along.


How To Order

Please send cheque/DD AT PAR for Rs.450/- (USD35) drawn in favour of “Centre for Science and Environment”, and mail it back to us for instant supply.


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India’s pesticide market may hit $5 billion by ’17

May 19, 2012

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS–5-billion-by–17/951243/#

New Delhi: India’s pesticide market, long stifled by various government controls and poor demand, is projected to more than double to $5 billion by 2017 on higher incomes and better awareness among farmers, according to senior industry executives.

“Farmers are getting higher MSPs (minimum support prices) of crops than in the past, and they know how much they will lose if they don’t prevent crops from pest or insect attacks. Also, as farm practices are improving, the use of pesticide will get a boost,” Rajesh Aggarwal, managing director of Insecticides India, said.

During the last five-year Plan, through 2011-12, the government raised MSPs of various crops in the range of 29% to 107%. Moreover, India’s per capita pesticide consumption of 600 gm is far below its major Asian peers —14 kg in China and 12 kg in Japan. The domestic market has immense growth potential because of the low level of consumption. With increasing focus on scaling up of productivity and preventing crop losses to feed a billion-plus population with limited land resources, the reliance on pesticide is only going to rise, industry executives said.

“Crop losses in India due to pest attack is among the highest in the world, while pesticide usage is among the lowest. Moreover, the government’s renewed focus on agriculture, increasing prices of the produce and labor costs are motivating farmers to use better inputs,” Aggarwal said.

According to an industry study, every one rupee spent on pesticide for the groundnut crop saves crop losses worth R26. Similarly, the spending and benefit ratio in mustard is 1:12, while in paddy it is 1:7.

Some industry executives said pesticide manufacturers are facing hard times as the data registration process for a molecule is cumbersome and takes a lot of time due to red tape.

HC asks panel on pesticides to frame guidelines by mid August

PTI | 06:05 PM,May 01,2012

New Delhi, May 1 (PTI) The Delhi High Court today directed an experts committee set up by it to frame guidelines within three months to check presence of pesticide residues in fruit and vegetables available in open market in the city. A bench of justices S K Kaul and Rajiv Shakdher also accepted a plea of pesticide manufacturers seeking a direction to the panel to allow their suggestions while framing the guidelines. The court directed the six-member committee of experts to file its report containing the guidelines by August 17. The bench also included Dr Sandhya Kulshrestha, Secretary of the Central Insecticide Board and Registration Committee, in the panel. Taking suo motu cognisance of a media report, the court had set up the committee in May 10, 2011 to periodically examine the fruits and vegetables available in the open market to check if they contain pesticide residues. Filing an affidavit before the court, the Centre had informed that the experts committee would be headed by the joint director of the Agriculture Ministry. On February 14, the Agriculture Ministry had 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, the affidavit said. 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, it stated. The court also suggested eminent scientist M S Swaminathan as an “outside” expert for the panel. However, Swaminathan informed that his hands were full and he was stuck in too many assignments at this present juncture. As per the media report, some NGOs had conducted a survey and claimed that vegetables and fruits sold in the city’s markets contain poisons capable of causing cancer and harming the nervous system and liver.

Brain anomalies in children exposed prenatally to a common organophosphate pesticide

Even low to moderate levels of exposure to the insecticide chlorpyrifos during pregnancy may lead to long-term, potentially irreversible changes in the brain structure of the child, according to a new brain imaging study by researchers from the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health at the Mailman School of Public Health, Duke University Medical Center, Emory University, and the New York State Psychiatric Institute. The changes in brain structure are consistent with cognitive deficits found in children exposed to this chemical.

Results of the study appear online in the April 30 PNAS.

The new study is the first to use MRI to identify the structural evidence for these cognitive deficits in humans, confirming earlier findings in animals. Changes were visible across the surface of the brain, with abnormal enlargement of some areas and thinning in others. The disturbances in brain structure are consistent with the IQ deficits previously reported in the children with high exposure levels of chlorpyrifos, or CPF, suggesting a link between prenatal exposure to CPF and deficits in IQ and working memory at age 7.

The study also reports evidence that CPF may eliminate or reverse the male-female differences that are ordinarily present in the brain. Further study is needed to determine the consequences of these changes before and after puberty, the researchers say.

Notably, the brain abnormalities appeared to occur at exposure levels below the current EPA threshold for toxicity, which is based on exposures high enough to inhibit the action of the key neurological enzyme cholinesterase. The present findings suggest that the mechanism underlying structural changes in the brain may involve other pathways.

According to the lead author, Virginia Rauh, ScD, Professor at the Mailman School of Public Health and Deputy Director of the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health, “By measuring a biomarker of CPF exposure during pregnancy, and following the children prospectively from birth into middle childhood, the present study provides evidence that the prenatal period is a vulnerable time for the developing child, and that toxic exposure during this critical period can have far-reaching effects on brain development and behavioral functioning.”

“By combining brain imaging and community-based research, we now have much stronger evidence linking exposure to chlorpyrifos with neurodevelopmental problems,” adds senior author Bradley S. Peterson, MD, Chief of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, New York State Psychiatric Institute, and Director of MRI Research in the Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University Medical Center.

In the current study, the researchers used MRI to evaluate the brains of 40 New York City children, ages 5 to 11, whose mothers were enrolled prenatally in a larger cohort study. Researchers compared 20 children with high exposures to CPF with 20 children with lower exposures; all exposures occurred prior to the EPA ban on household use of the chemical in 2001. They found brain anomalies were associated with the higher exposure.

Since the 2001 ban, a drop in residential exposure levels of CPF has been documented by Robin Whyatt, DrPH, a co-author on the present study and Professor of Clinical Environmental Health Sciences and Co-Deputy Director of the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health at the Mailman School. However, the chemical continues to be present in the environment through its widespread use in agriculture (food and feed crops), wood treatments, and public spaces such as golf courses, some parks, and highway medians. People near these sources can be exposed by inhaling the chemical, which drifts on the wind. Low-level exposure can also occur by eating fruits and vegetables that have been sprayed. Although the chemical is degraded rapidly by water and sunlight outdoors, it has been detected by the Columbia researchers in many urban residences years after the ban went into effect.

On NHRC intervention Punjab Government bans use of cancer causing pesticides in Malwa region


New Delhi, April 20th, 2012

Responding to National Human Rights Commission’s directions, the Punjab Government has banned the manufacture, import and use of pesticides which are very injurious to health. It has also withdrawn registration of some such pesticides in addition to restricting use of some other dangerous pesticides. It has also made arrangements for educating farmers on judicious use of pesticides and their healthcare.

These actions, among others, have been taken by the Punjab Government in response to NHRC’s suo motu cognizance of a media report, carried on the 16th August, 2011, alleging that the disease of cancer among farmers in the Malwa region of Punjab is caused by the excessive use of pesticides on the crops and that due to non-availability of the cheap treatment of cancer in the region, about 70-100 cancer patients were going daily by train to Bikaner from Bathinda for free treatment and cheap medicines in the Acharya Tulsi Regional Cancer Trust.

These patients were mostly small farmers from the southern districts of Punjab including Bathinda, Faridkot, Moga, Muktsar, Ferozepur, Sangrur and Mansa coming under Malwa region.

On the directions of the Commission two reports were received from the Government of Punjab on 20th September, 2011 and 27th February, 2012.  The first report of the Director Health and Family Welfare of Punjab was not found specific by the Commission to the issues in the media report and it gave directions on 23rd January, 2012 for an overall comprehensive action including banning carcinogenic pesticides, control use of less hazardous pesticides, education of farmers for use of pesticides, regular health check ups of the of farmers in the area and conducting a survey in the area to assess the problem.

In response to this, the second report by the Principal Secretary, Govt. of Punjab, Department of Health and Family Welfare accepted that the consumption of pesticides was on the higher side in Malwa region on account of growing of cotton crop.  However, during the last 4-5 years, the consumption has reduced as the farmers have switched over to BT cotton, which requires only 20% of the pesticides used for earlier cotton varieties.  The farmers are being trained on judicious use of pesticides even as some dangerous pesticides have been banned or their use has been restricted.  As for providing cheap treatment for cancer, the Punjab Government has taken the following steps:-

•       Financial assistance under State Illness Fund through Punjab Nirogi Society is provided to cancer patients belonging to BPL families;
•       A fund of Rs. 20 crores has been made available by the Government of Punjab under the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund for treatment of cancer patients.  An amount of upto Rs. 1.5 lakhs is made available for treatment to every cancer patient;
•       School children suffering from cancer are provided free treatment by Health Department;
•       .Brachytherapy machine for treatment of cancer patients has been installed at Government Medical College and Hospital, Patiala;
•       Radiotherapy machine and cobalt unit have been started at Sri Guru Gobind Singh Medical College, Faridkot;
•       Cobalt source fro the treatment of cancer patients has been installed at Sri Guru Ram Das Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Centre, Amritsar;
•       Onconet service has been started at Civil Hospital, Bathinda;
•       Regional Cancer Centre, PGI is connected to all districts of Punjab via Tele-Medicine facility;
•       Free travel facility in Punjab Roadways and PRTC Buses is provided for cancer patients for availing treatment;
•       State Government has executed an agreement with Max Health Care to set up Super Specialty Hospital for cancer and Trauma Care in the premises of Civil Hospital, SAS Nagar (Mohali) and setting up of Super Specialty Cancer and Cardiac Hospital in the premises of Civil Hospital, Bathinda.  These hospitals are fully functional.

The Commission has observed that the steps taken by the State Government give some ray of hope to the victims.  If these steps are taken forward in the right earnest they are likely to bear fruits in the future.