New Delhi: It is high time that there were regulations on pesticides as instances of regular food items like grapes and basmati rice having significant amounts of pesticide residues in them have become common, said experts attending the first day of the “Food Safety and Environmental Toxins” conference here.
On Wednesday, most speakers were of the opinion that food safety regulatory structures in India were either too weak or simply ignored. They called for implementation of the recommendations made by the Joint Parliamentary Committee set up in 2003 after a report from the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), which is organizing the conference, came up with the disturbing fact that soft-drinks in India had high levels of pesticide content.
The report is still lying with the Centre without being implemented. Keshav Desiraju, secretary, department of Health and Family Welfare, pointed out that while there was a resistance to regulations and regulatory controls, the need of the hour was a regulatory approach that targeted manufacturers on one hand and a public which demanded quality in products on the other.
“If there is good reason to believe that food is not meeting the standards, consumers and advocacy groups can take up the cause. We would need to involve schools, young people,” he said.
CSE Director General, Sunita Narain stressed on the need of creating independent labs to understand the toxicities in our environment due to rampant industrialization and nexus of government officials.
‘Karnataka not doing enough’
The Union Ministry of Health has said that the Karnataka Government is not doing enough for the victims of Endosulfan. The deadly pesticide used on cashew plants caused several deaths and disabled thousands for life in Kerala and Karnataka in the last two decades.
Officials from the Union Health Department said that the state government must hasten the process of compensating the victims of endosulfan along the lines of the Kerala Govenrment. “We were shocked to hear that there has been no study and that there is no data, or any details available related to endosulfan’s effects in Karnataka,” a senior Health Department official told Deccan Chronicle, on the sidelines of the inaugural day of the conference on ‘Food Safety and Environmental Toxins’ here.
While the Kerala government has implemented some of the rehabilitation measures for the victims, including opening special schools for affected children, Karnataka has a long way to go. It’s estimated that there are close to 12,000 endosulfan victims in Karnataka, while Kerala has around 6,000. The Kerala government has now provided Smart Cards to the pesticide victims and special schemes are being granted to them.
But the state is yet to survey the disastrous effects of this pesticide, which are now spreading to other areas as well. So far the deleterious results of endosulfan were restricted only to Dakshin Kannada district, where in the 1980s, sprinkling of endosulfan pesticide from the air was done over 200 revenue villages. The state government has allocated some funds in the recently presented budget, but the amount is not even enough to open a hospital for the victims, say the activists working for the victims of endosulfan.