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‘Organic’ veggies not as organic as you think

 

KAU study detects new-generation insecticides and fungicides in ‘organic’ fruits and vegetables

Here is an alert for health conscious people who go in search of ‘organic’ fruits and vegetables.

New generation insecticides and fungicides have been detected in fruits and vegetables labelled organic is the latest concern in food safety, according to a report published by Kerala Agricultural University (KAU) recently.

They are often sold at higher prices in separate counter in hypermarkets, it noted.

The report from the Pesticide Residue Research & Analytical Laboratory (PRRAL) under the KAU contains categorised test results of vegetables, fruits, spices and condiments sampled from public markets, including hypermarkets across the State, during the period from April to June 2017.

Green capsicum

A sample of ‘organic’ green capsicum purchased on June 16, 2017 from a major hypermarket in Ernakulam city was found contaminated with seven chemical pesticides, including five insecticides, acetamiprid (1.12 ppm), clothianidin (0.72 ppm), imidacloprid (0.69 ppm), buprofezin (0.12ppm), acephate (1.78 ppm) and two fungicides, tebuconazole (0.84 ppm ) and iprovalicarb (0.22 ppm).

New insecticides

Another sample of baji chilli branded ‘pesticide-free’ contained three new-generation insecticides viz. acetamiprid, metalaxyl and chlorantraniliprole. One sample of imported “red globe” variety grapes purchased from the same shop had four pesticides, imidacloprid (1.31 ppm), metalaxyl (0.57 ppm), azoxystrobin (1.12 ppm) and carbendazim (0.09 ppm).

The study conducted in a major hypermarket in Thiruvananthapuram city also indicated the same trend.

Red capsicum contained imidacloprid, clothianidin, azoxystrobin, tebuconazole and carbendazim in the same sample.

Baji chilli had residues of imidacloprid, carbofuran (banned in Kerala) and two fungicides tebuconazole and trifloxystrobin.

Among the fruits collected from the same hypermarket, red globe grapes priced at ₹400 a kg showed the presence of acetamiprid (0.39 ppm) and indoxacarb (0.04 ppm), while seedless green grapes had residues of three pesticides.

A systemic organophosphate insecticide, dimethoate (0.67- 2.34 ppm), was detected in small onion and green chilli samples purchased on June 9, 2017 from another shop in Thiruvananthapuram city selling exclusively ‘organic’ labelled products.

Detection of a number of new generation pesticides up to trace levels of parts per billion (nanogram/kg), which were not previously reported, has been made possible with the new liquid Chromatograph-Mass Spectrometer (LC-MS/MS), an apparatus imported from the U.S., said Thomas Biju Mathew, Associate Director (PP) and Head, PRRAL, Vellayani.

“The results indicated regular spraying of a cocktail of new-generation insecticides and fungicides at close intervals to protect the crop in farms and polyhouses in other States,” he said.

Need for surveillance

KAU Vice Chancellor P. Rajendran said the new results necessitated intensified surveillance of fruits and vegetables sold in Kerala.

“Procurement, operation and maintenance of sophisticated and costly instruments like LC-MS/MS and service of highly skilled analysts has become a necessity. The new pesticide residue laboratories set up under the KAU in Kumarakam, Vellanikkara and Padnakkad should also be strengthened with advanced equipment to attain full technical competency,” he said.

The report is also published on the State government’s web portal kerala.gov.in

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