Indian food safe for human consumption with judicious use of pesticides
Opinion

Indian food safe for human consumption with judicious use of pesticides

97.2% of samples in food chain found within safe limits

  • By Harish Mehta , Senior Advisor, Crop Care Federation of India | November 24, 2023

Agrochemical is a major agri-input to minimise crop losses both in the farmers’ field and during storage. This is an ongoing effort to report to the media, government, bureaucrats, scientific fraternity, trade, farming community and households to assure them on quality of Indian food, on optimal use of pesticides and availability all across the country.

Pesticides in food chain in India within safe limits

Toxicity of pesticides in food chain, pesticides data in different food commodities generated under MPRNL Scheme. The Monitoring of Pesticide Residues at National Level (MPRNL) scheme was initiated by the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Farmers Welfare, Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare as a central sector scheme during 2005-06 to regularly monitor pesticide residues in food commodities.

The findings also demolish the scare mongering about quality of our food and pesticide residues in eatables. The data was furnished by All India Network Project on Pesticides Residues for the period 2015-16 till 2021-2022 and has been collated through RTI’s.

Sl No

FY

%age of samples found exceeding FSSAI MRL value

1

2015-16

2.36%

2

2016-17

2.12%

3

2017-18

2.21%

4

2018-19

2.92%

5

2019-20

3.2%

6

2020-21

3.4%

7

2021-22

3.6%

 
97.2% of samples in food chain found meeting FSSAI MRL value
 
The above data is based on samples of food commodities drawn over the years which includes: 
 

Food Grains: Majorly Wheat, Rice, Pulses, corn are India’s most popular food crops. In fact, these crops are the basis for food staples. A food staple is a food that makes up the dominant part of a population's diet.

Vegetables: Cabbage, Okra, Chilies, etc. eatables are full of essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that provide many important health benefits to your body s. There is strong evidence to show that the nutrients found in fruits and vegetables can prevent chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases. This is a major segment of raw or cooked consumption

Fruits: Pomegranate, Mango, Grapes, apples and tomatoes having a healthy gut can improve heart health, boost immunity and even benefit mental health. A high intake growth area especially for healthy intake

Milk from different sources tested. It is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, particularly calcium. It has an important role in bone health and consumed by all age groups

Others categories include Curry leaves, Egg/Meat, Fish/Marine, Water, Oilseed, Red Chili Powder, Spices, Tea etc.

This category assumes importance in terms of exports particularly spices, tea & chillies.

India’s compliant levels are in line with global compliance standards. MRL are legally imposed commercial standards and not safety standards.

Let it be known that India’s crop protection Chemicals consumption is one of the lowest in the world, far less amount as compared to developed and even emerging economies. Pesticide usage in India is 0.38 kg/ha as compared with China which is 11 kg/ha, Japan 10.9 kg/ha, Germany/France 3.7 kg/ha and UK 2.8 kg/ha. 

Another reason is an effort by industry and state agricultural universities educating the farmers to follow the government recommendation as per “package of practices” on dosage, crop segment, time of spray etc.

There are several misconceptions which are clarified in this article to bring out the positives on use of pesticides, their impact on reducing crop losses and to provide safe & nutritious food to consumers.

Pesticides samples not meeting specification

The association again has been able to collect and analyse data through RTIs from 23 agriculturally important & high consumption states where recommended agrochemicals have been used on a variety of crops.

Over the last 4 years total no. of 2,51,728 samples were drawn for quality testing out of which only 5,890 samples did not meet specification /found substandard.

As per the Insecticides Act 1968, for monitoring of quality of pesticides, 191 Insecticide Inspectors have been notified by the Central Government besides 10,303 Inspectors at State level. Samples are collected by these Insecticides Inspectors and tested in 70 State Pesticide Testing Laboratories and 2 Regional Pesticide Testing Laboratories.

It is worth noting that the agricultural Inspectors draw samples of large, medium & small companies of leading as well minor brands. It is also been observed that in several cases, on retesting the percentage of samples meeting specifications improves further.

Earlier in response to unstarred question No 309 answered on 15th September, 2020 by Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Narendra Singh Tomar in Lok Sabha stated that during the last 5 years 3,38,182 samples were analyzed , 3971 prosecutions have been launched against firms and dealers whose samples were found sub- standard. This figure works out to be 1.174% as samples found sub-standard.

In another unstarred question No 4534 answered on 23rd March, 2021, Tomar in Lok Sabha stated that in State Government of Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Uttrakhand, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Goa, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir, Chandigarh, no cases of sale of spurious pesticides have been reported in these states during the years 2014 to 2020.

Pesticides quality meets global standards at lower cost

For the benefit of readers, the word ‘spurious’ does not figure in the Insecticides Act 1968 and has been coined by vested interests to malign the Indian agrochemical manufacturers. The only term used is ″misbranded″ in Sec 3(A), the responsibility for such cases is taken by respective corporates to safeguard their brand image.

Indian manufacturers produce quality which is in fact superior to imported products in terms of purity profile and efficacy. Our members account for almost 80% of the exports to 150 countries with acceptable quality. 

Agrochemicals: A trade surplus sector despite surge in imports

Indian agrochemical sector has created a trade surplus of Rs.29,520 crore for the financial year 2022-23 where the exports are to the tune of Rs.44,280 crore as against imports of Rs14760 crore, a rare feat for any industry.

India’s pesticide imports have surged 50% during last 4 years mainly due to Import friendly regulations. Import surge lowers domestic industries capacity utilisation and increases costs.

The government effort to assign separate HSN codes for technical & formulations import is laudable task requiring inter-ministerial intervention for safeguarding the interest of genuine importers.  

Comprehensive Registration of Pesticides (CROP)

Under the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, Directorate of Plant Protection, Quarantine & Storage have developed an advance IT solution Technical Platform ‘Comprehensive Registration of Pesticides’ (CROP) with the objective to improve the service delivery with real time, user friendly IT Solution without any manual intervention.

The purpose is to integrate with all the stakeholders in the system for efficiency and develop Dashboard at various levels of hierarchies, so as to generate MIS reports based on the day to day requirement of the Ministry, Department, CIB&RC, and other stakeholders of the system. This would ensure that only legitimate registered companies/ registered users operate in the country.

Though the dashboard shows 9610 Registered Users as on 21st November, 2023, the figures would drop drastically after the registrants/ applicants supposedly complete their KYC on CROP portal by end 2023, failing which the user accounts of those non KYC companies/ users shall be frozen.

This is the most logical step to keep out fly by night operators and manufacturers of substandard pesticides

This is a continuous process to delist illegal operators and to ensure quality parameters of legitimate manufacturers. As per the information received from 21 State Government and 2 UTs, there are 2403 pesticides manufacturing units in the country. (Source: Lok Sabha unstarred question No 309 answered on 15th September, 2020).

Towards Atmanirbhar Bharat “We should take pride in the quality of pesticides manufactured indigenously which are exported to over 150countries meeting stringent quality specifications. These figures reinforce the factual position, demolishing false propaganda and misinformation spread by foreign funded NGOs & importing lobby with vested interests to malign the indigenous manufactures in terms of food safety, residues, misbranded products which are only false perceptions. CCFI members are committed towards ″Atmanirbhar Bharat″ through Make in India″ not only to meet domestic demand but feed the world.


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