A study conducted by the Pesticide Residue Analytical Laboratory (PRAL) of Kerala Agriculture University (KAU) has identified the use of unapproved pesticides in fruits and vegetables grown by farmers. The report warns that the use of these pesticides may cause various health and environmental issues.
Even though the samples of fruits and vegetables collected and tested by the Kerala Agriculture University were found safe to eat, the majority of the pesticides identified in the samples are unapproved to use in the crops, the university study noted.
The Central Insecticides Board and Registration Committee (CIB & RC) is the authority to give approval for using pesticides in crops. The committee has the power to decide the permitted residual presence of pesticides and which pesticide should be used in each crop. They also decide the amount of pesticide to be used in each round of spraying or while applying it on plants to prevent attack by insects and fungus.
The lab examined 729 samples and pesticide residues were found in 17.55% of the samples (128 samples). Of these residues, 90% of pesticides do not have the approval of the board. The pesticides were found in 17.37% of vegetables, 19.44% of fruits, and 50% of spices.
Chlorpyrifos, cypermethrin, clothianidin, acetamiprid, carbendazim, chlorantraniliprole, indoxacarb, tebuconazole, acephate, monocrotophos, imidacloprid, azoxystrobin, carbofuran, tebuconazole, thiamethoxam, trifloxystrobin, quinalphos, flubendiamide, ethion etc. are a few examples of the unapproved pesticides found in the samples of fruits, vegetables and spices. Profenofos pesticide, which is banned in Kerala, was found in cauliflower and grapes.
Raising concern over the findings, the report notes that there is no safe or permissible limit that has been stipulated to use these pesticides.
The university had examined samples collected from January to June this year. The university collected the samples mainly from four sources: public markets, directly from farmers, organic shops and eco shops of Agriculture department.
Samples collected from public market
The residues were noticed in 20.12% vegetables, 28% fruits and 66.6% of spices collected from public market. The authorities examined 333 samples in all. Of these, pesticides residues were identified in 67 samples. The CIB-approved pesticides were found in only six samples. 90% of the samples were found to contain unapproved pesticides.
The lab examined 36 samples of apple, black grapes, green grapes and water melon, and 28% of the samples were found to contain 13 pesticide residues. Of these residues, only three have the approval for use and these three were used within permissible limits. The lab identified eight pesticides in the cumin and fennel samples. All pesticides do not have approval for use.
Samples collected from farmers
The lab collected 257 samples of 27 vegetables, and residues were found in 37 samples. All the residues were of unapproved pesticides. The report suggests awareness programs for farmers and agriculture workers, and strict measures to control the sale of pesticides.
Samples collected from organic shops
Of the samples collected from all four sources, the samples from organic shops were found to contain more pesticide residue. The lab tested 36 samples and nine were found to contain the pesticide representing 25% of the samples tested. The report warned that it should be taken seriously because people are buying vegetables from these shops at higher prices. “It is a violation of the rights of the customer. The food security department should take note of this and create awareness among consumers,” the report added.
Meanwhile, organic fruits and spices were found safe to eat, as no residues were noticed in these samples.
Samples from the Eco Shop of Agriculture department
These shops are comparatively safer than other sources, the report notes. Only 10.16% of vegetables contain residues. However, of the 30 pesticides found in vegetables, 20 were not in the approved list.