The Union government has not banned arecanut, Congress MP K. Jayaprakash Hegde said here on Sunday. Steps would be taken to protect the interests of growers, he said.

At an interaction programme organised by the Malenadu Mithra Vrinda here, Mr. Hegde said Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Ghulam Nabi Azad had informed him that there was no proposal before his Ministry to ban arecanut. “Under no circumstance the Centre will ban arecanut,” he said.

Lakhs of families in the Malnad and coastal districts of the State depend on the crop for their livelihood.

Mr. Hegde, who represents the Udupi-Chikmagalur constituency, said all reports in India indicated absence of carcinogens in arecanut. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of the World Health Organization in a 2008 monograph had stated that “arecanut is carcinogenic to humans.” There is “sufficient evidence” of the carcinogenicity of betel quid (paan) with and without tobacco, the WHO had said.

On September 6, 2013, Amal Pusp, Director, Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, wrote a letter to the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India to examine the scientific evidences on the harmful effects of arecanut with a view to initiate action to classify the nut as an injurious substance and accordingly prohibit its use as ingredient in any food product, in conformity with the objectives of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006.

Mr. Hegde said he would hold a meeting with Food Safety and Standards Authority of India Director Sandhya Kabra on the issue. Arecanut as such was not harmful. Products mixed with arecanut would be harmful to health, he said. Mr. Hegde said Additional Solicitor-General Indira Jaising made a forceful submission in the Supreme Court against manufacture and sale of ghutka products. The apex court had not banned arecanut or its cultivation. The Cancer Biology Laboratory, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, has clarified in its report that arecanut does not cause cancer, he added.

State subject

Senior Congress leader B.L. Shankar said agriculture was a State subject and the Centre had no power to ban arecanut cultivation. Referring to comments made by participants on the editorial titled ‘Paan Singh Tumour’ published in The Hindu on July 26, 2012, Mr. Shankar said it was the opinion of the newspaper.

T.N. Prakash, professor, University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, said, “Arecanut is a food item. It is nutritious. I have no objections in banning products mixed with arecanut such as paan masala.” Janata Dal (Secular) MLA Y.S.V. Datta said he would oppose any proposal to ban arecanut.

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