Union Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Dinesh Trivedi has sought action against sale of oxytocin, used by farmers to enhance the growth of fruits and vegetables. Oxytocin is a Schedule H drug banned in India for use on animals. In local parlance, it has got many names, starting from ‘cocin' and ‘paani' to ‘dawai,' and is available at almost all the general stores in the countryside. Oxytocin is a mammalian hormone that also acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain.

In a letter written to Union Health and Family Welfare Secretary Sujatha Rao, Mr Trivedi pointed out that farmers were blatantly using hormone shots to expedite the growth of vegetables. “These hormones may cause irreparable damage to our health, if taken through these vegetables, over a period of time. The even more shocking element is that the public/authorities may also be aware of this malpractice.”

The hormone is used clinically to help begin or to sustain labour, to control bleeding after delivery, and stimulate the secretion of breast milk.

According to Mr. Trivedi, researchers had proved that indiscriminate use of oxytocin injections by farmers were causing health hazards. Injections were being administered to pumpkin, watermelon, brinjal, gourd and cucumber, which were sold openly in the open market. The drug was cheap and readily available. The implementation of the ban on its use on animals too was very lax, he said.

Another glaring issue was the use of chemicals such as copper sulphate for artificially colouring fruits and vegetables. Adverse effects of these toxins were also under scrutiny and the use of these hazardous chemicals needed to be urgently monitored and looked into immediately, he said.