Agri Business

One-third of Capital’s organic veggies have pesticide residues: CCFI

Tomojit Basu New Delhi | Updated on December 16, 2014 Published on December 16, 2014

BL29-VEGETABLES

Following up on its October investigation of data irregularities in the National Project on Organic Farming (NPOF), the Crop Care Federation of India (CCFI) stated on Tuesday that it had found pesticide residues in one-third of the organic products retailed in New Delhi that are marketed as chemical pesticide-free.

The owner of a retail store mentioned in the response by the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), to an RTI filed by CCFI, however, was unaware of the study conducted on its product but told Business Line that all its products had been organically certified by bodies recognised by the National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP). The CCFI communicated to BL that the Government itself conducted tests on organic vegetables and fruits and that it had filed the RTI to learn specific details about the results. 

It is not clear in the IARI response as to how many organic retail outlets were tracked by CCFI, an association of pesticides manufacturers, besides ‘The Altitude Store’ from where 150 samples across a range of vegetables, including cauliflower, cabbage, brinjal, green pea and okra, were tested between January 2012 and October 2014.

Of these, 50 were found to have chemical pesticide residues while 10 were above the maximum residue level (MRL). Acetamiprid, Chlorpyrifos, Cypermethrin and Flubendiamide were among the pesticides detected.

“Of late, it has become a fashion to talk about organic agriculture in policy circles without knowing the ground reality right under their nose,” said Rajju Shroff, Chairman, CCFI, in a press statement which added “that the test results only proved long held suspicion that organic farms do use pesticides…and stealthily sell the products as organic to gain from premium price that people pay”.

The CCFI statement said that there was no specific regulation in India to punish such retailers and not a single violator had been taken to task for falling foul of the Food Safety and Standards Act (2006) that defined "misbranded food as an article of food offered or promoted for sale with false, misleading or deceptive claim upon the label of the package" and imposed a penalty of up to Rs 3 lakhs on fraudulent sellers.

Unfair report

Ayesha Grewal, who manages Altitude, stated that chances of the outlet’s products containing pesticides were low but did explain that the business model worked largely on trust with suppliers. With everything that is retailed being certified organic, Grewal felt that strengthening such regulatory checks could be a way to prevent such reports emerging in the future.

“We have to rely on the certifying agent and work as per their reports. If they’re telling us that our products our organic by international standards, we trust them. If it turns out that they are not doing their job properly, then it has a negative impact on us,” she said.

Altitude sources vegetables mainly from Uttarakhand (certified by the Uttarakhand Stated Seed Certification Agency), a group of farmers in Haryana’s Sonipat district (SGS India-certified), and from its own farm in Rajasthan’s Alwar district (certified by OneCert Asia Agri Certification Ltd). More than a hundred suppliers work with the company, providing meat and poultry, tea, coffee, cereals etc.

“We have now started moving into sourcing vegetables in a big way from our own farm where we have taken precautionary measures to keep out pesticides, including situating the patch in the middle of the 40 acres, planting trees which act as windbreakers and also getting the water tested regularly,” explained Grewal.

The firm recently snapped ties with two suppliers in the last three months since it was felt that they were not working as per organic norms.

“Even if I was to assume that my store did have produce that chemical residues why that should be used to execute the entire organic market. It doesn’t appear to be a fair report,” she added.

Published on December 16, 2014
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