The Kerala Agricultural University has found “dangerous levels” of pesticide residue in key vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, vegetable cowpea (achinga), amaranthus red, small red onions, tomatoes, green chillies and curry leaves, among others.
The residue includes that of the banned Profenofos, which falls into the yellow category (second level of pesticides in the toxicity classification) and which has translaminar action (the toxin entering the plant system primarily by roots, and transported to locations throughout the plant, where it can affect those who consume the vegetables).
It has been banned in Kerala for nearly three years now. The pesticide is allowed in India only in cotton and tea and in other parts of the world, it is used only in cotton.
The results came from tests carried out by the Pesticide Residue Research and Analytical Laboratory, Vellayani near Thiruvananthapuram. The findings have been put up on the Kerala Agricultural University’s website http://www.kerala agriculture.gov.in
The banned pesticide residue was found mostly in gooseberries, green chilli, okra (bhindi), curry leaves, mint leaves and coriander leaves, said Thomas Biju Mathew, principal investigator for the project.
“Production and Marketing of Safe-to-Eat Vegetables for Sale through Government Outlets”.
He said that the results were being made public not to make the people panic but to look to safer alternatives. One of the highlights of the findings was that most of the pesticides belonged to the surface contact category and were not systemic.
The results are for 40 types of vegetables, samples of which were drawn from the Thiruvananthapuram markets between January 1 and March 1, 2013.
The KAU website also suggests methods to get rid of the residue. For example, one suggestion is to separate cauliflower leaves and keep the separated flowers dipped in salt or vinegar solution for 10 minutes and to pass them through repeated washing. The vinegar solution can be made of 20 ml of vinegar in a litre of water or 20 grams of salt in a litre of water.
Vegetables have been placed in three categories according to the level of pesticide residue in them. The most dangerous category has been detected in vegetables like bhindi, drumsticks, little gourd, red and yellow capsicum, gooseberries and coriander leaves.
The less dangerous category of pesticides has been found in beetroot, brinjal, carrot and garlic.
The farm produce that has been found not to carry pesticide residue comprises tapioca, mangoes, cucumber, colocasia, beans, ginger, big onion, capsicum (green), nendran bananas, ash gourd, pumpkins, pineapples, and green peas.
The website does not specify the level of pesticide residue in the individual items but the director of the laboratory, which is under KAU, S. Nazeema Beevi, said that the samples had been drawn over the first quarter of the year and the situation may not remain the same for the next quarter.
She said that the vegetables had been categorised as having dangerous levels of pesticide because they exceeded the maximum residue limit fixed by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India.