Dismal findings

  • Govt should monitor the sale of pesticides and educate farmers about their use
Dismal findings

Jul 29, 2014-

The amount of pesticide residue in fruits and vegetables detected by the Rapid Pesticide Residue Analysis Laboratory at the Kalimati market is worrisome. Fourteen percent of the vegetables that come to Kalimati are unfit for consumption. The laboratory collected 187 samples of fruits and vegetables from June 18 to July 15 and found 26 of them to contain high levels of organophosphates and carbamates which slow the production of acetylcholinesterase, an enzyme essential for nerve cells to pass chemical and electronic signals to other cells. These chemicals were mostly found in potatoes, chillis, cowpeas, capsicum, cauliflowers, Chinese cabbage, carrots, spinach, okra and tomatoes. On one occasion, the Laboratory found a cent percent presence of pesticide residue in potatoes brought in from Panauti, Kavre and 99 percent residue in brinjals from Khanikhola, Dhading. Last Friday, the Plant Directorate confiscated 550 kgs of cowpeas, which were brought in from Lalbandi in Sarlahi, after the Laboratory found 97.17 percent of pesticide residues in it. And as the police tried to confiscate the vegetables, what followed was a clash with the vegetable vendors.

While farmers have been known to use pesticides in huge amounts, the Laboratory has now confirmed the extent of the problem. The findings have also brought the larger problem of the unregulated sale of pesticides to the forefront. To obtain a licence to sell pesticides, one needs to undertake a three-day training provided by the District Agriculture Development Office. But in many cases, untrained members of the household  have also been found to be running the shop. So when farmers go to the agrovet and demand a pesticide which will immediately kill a pest, they are immediately handed pesticides without any suggestions as to their usage, waiting period and side effects.

According to the Pesticide Registration and Management Division, 121 pesticides are sold under 1,331 different trade names in Nepal. However, 85 percent of farmers use pesticides without following instructions. The high amount of pesticide residue detected in Kalimati is a result of this. Farmers need to wait about a week to 30 days, depending on the pesticide, after its use to harvest the crop. But they have been found to be plucking vegetables within a day or two of pesticide application, not only harming their own livelihood but also putting the health of consumers at great risk.

The Department of Agriculture, through its District Agriculture Development Offices, should therefore immediately mobilise its resources to train farmers on the use of pesticides. It should also regularly monitor shops that sell pesticides throughout the country. Special attention should be paid to pocket areas, which have been found to produce vegetables with the highest amount of pesticides, like Kavre, Dhading, Bhaktapur and Kathmandu. For greater impact, the monitoring of vegetables should continue in the interest of public health, and must be expanded to elsewhere in the country, not just as a one time whim.

Published: 30-07-2014 09:26

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