Speaking in the Lok Sabha, the Minister of State for Agriculture Dr.Sanjeev Kumar Balyan said that samples of vegetables and fruits are now collected under a new programme. This programme has been initiated by the Ministry of Agriculture and is known as Monitoring of Pesticide Residues at National Level. Even though media has reported the use of toxic substances like calcium carbide and oxytocin for early ripening of fruits and vegetables no pesticide residues have been found in the samples collected recently under this new programme. Out of 25,664 vegetable samples about 2.9% (764) samples were found to contain pesticide residues above MRL in the years between 2011 and 2014. Residues above MRL were detected only in 88, samples out of the 7,501 samples of fruit that were collected. None of the pesticides detected were those that are banned.
In other information given to the Lok Sabha the Minister said that the Central Government undertakes to conduct safe pesticide use awareness campaigns on print media, electronic media and hoardings with the help of Central Integrated Pest Management Centres of Directorate of Plant Protection Quarantine and Storage. The State Department of Agriculture also conduct ‘Farmers Field Schools’ to educate farmers regarding safe and judicious use of pesticides, use of bio-pesticides/ bio-fertilizers etc.
According to the Agricultural Ministry a campaign is being run, known as ‘Grow Safe Food.’ This programme has the agenda to convey to farmers and stakeholders the safe and judicious use of pesticides. They use hoardings and banners in regional languages placed in Gram Panchayats and in rural areas to convey the message of safe pesticide use by teaching them the five principles like
- Use the right pesticides on the right crop,
- Against those pests for which the pesticide has been approved
- At the right time
- Only in approved doses
- As per approved method of application
The Registration Committee constituted under the provisions of the Insecticides Act, 1968 registers pesticides only after establishing their safety to human, animal and environmental health. From time to time, they conduct technical reviews to ascertain if the pesticides continue to be safe and their use is permitted only if found safe.
The use of ethylene gas, in low concentration, has been found safe for use in ripening fruits but Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restrictions on Sales) Regulations has prohibited the sale of fruits which have been artificially ripened with acetylene gas. This gas is also known as carbide gas because it is produced from calcium carbide.
The Commissioners of Food Safety/Food (Health) Authority of States/UTs who are responsible for implementation of the Food Safety and Standard Act, 2006 and its Rules/Regulations in their States/UTs have been requested to keep a strict vigil against use of carbide gas and other hazardous chemicals for ripening fruit. The State Governments have also been advised to educate the general public about the consumption of artificially ripened fruit with the help of mass electronic media.