Features Thursday, August 14, 2014 - 05:30
The News Minute| August 11, 2014| 3.30 pm IST In a report titled ‘Trouble Brewing’ released by Greenpeace India, the NGO says that tests done on samples of packaged tea found residues of hazardous chemical pesticides in a majority of samples. Over half of the 49 samples contained pesticides that are ‘unapproved’ for use in tea cultivation or which were present in excess of recommended limits. Greenpeace says the samples were purchased between June 2013 and May 2014 from retail outlets in Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi and Kolkata and were sent to an independent accredited laboratory to be tested for the presence of over 350 different pesticides. The samples cover eight of the top eleven companies 3 which dominate the branded tea market in India. These include well-known brands produced by Hindustan Unilever Limited, Tata Global Beverages Limited, Wagh Bakri Tea, Goodricke Tea, Twinings, Golden Tips, Kho-Cha and Girnar. The report lists the following as key findings: A total of 34 pesticides were found. 94% of samples contained residues of at least one pesticide.  59% (29 of the samples) contained ‘cocktails’ of more than 10 different pesticides, including one sample which contained residues of 20 different pesticides.  59% (29) of the samples also contained residues of at least one pesticide active ingredient above the Maximum Residue Levels set by the EU (EU-MRL), with 37% (18) of the tea samples exceeding these levels by more than 50%. The report says that surprisingly, 68% of the 34 pesticides found in the various samples appear not to be registered for use in cultivation of tea. Main pesticides found: Monocrotophos, a suspected mutagen and neurotoxicant, a pesticide is not approved for use on tea and is classified as Highly Hazardous (Class Ib) by the World Health Organisation. Triazophos, another unapproved toxic pesticide, was found in five samples. Classified as Highly Hazardous (Class Ib) by the World Health Organization (WHO). Tebufenpyrad, which is not registered in India, and therefore illegal, was found in one sample. DDT, The results also showed the presence of the pesticide DDT, banned for use in agriculture in India since 1989. The study says that it is impossible to understand the effects that drinking such tea has on consumers, but maintains that the direct exposure of tea plantation workers to pesticide raises concern. Greenpeace India has called on companies to recognise that the problem of synthetic chemical pesticides exists and they need to progressively phase out pesticides in tea cultivation throughout India, as a first step towards Ecological Agriculture. Some of the companies have reacted to the Greenpeace report, Unilever has announced commissioning of research in India on the ‘Feasibility of Non-Pesticide Methods of Plant Protection for Tea Crops’. Tata Global Beverages has said that it aims at reducing the dependence on chemicals in supply chain. Neha Saigal, Senior Campaigner, Greenpeace India said, “We urge all tea companies to take steps to move the tea sector away from this pesticide treadmill and clean our chai from crop to cup. The tea companies need to support adoption of ecological agriculture approaches like Non Pesticidal Management (NPM) for the sustained growth of the industry as well as safety of the consumers. NPM is already being practiced successfully in the country; it is both economically and ecologically viable.”

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