Greenpeace finds high pesticide levels in Indian tea

Ecological approaches and relevant policy initiatives a must to save Indian pride

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Geetanjali Minhas | August 13, 2014



Pesticides considered ‘highly’ and ‘moderately’ hazardous by the World Health Organisation have been found in leading national and international tea brands, says a recent Greenpeace report “Trouble Brewing”.

The report also says that these pesticides, which are not to be used on tea crops, have been found in Indian tea.

The tests were conducted on 49 branded packaged teas from eight of the top eleven companies that dominate the branded tea market in India, including Hindustan Lever Limited, Tata Global Beverages Limited, Wagh Bakri tea, Goodricke Tea, Twinings, Golden Tips, Kho Cha, Girnar and export to countries such as Russia, UK, US, UAE and Iran were tested by Greenpeace, India between June 2013 and May 2014.

Classified by WHO as ‘highly’ hazardous pesticides (Class 1b)  and ‘moderately’ hazardous (Class II), 59% of samples tested positive for a cocktail of toxic pesticides of more than ten different substances, including one sample with residues of 20 different pesticides.

Despite being not registered for use in agriculture in India and banned in 1989, DDT was found in almost 67 percent samples. It is used for control of disease carrying insects and could be present as contaminant of other pesticides.

Many samples of tea were found to contain hazardous organophospohorous pesticide called monocrotophos, neoniconitoid insecticides like imidacloprid associated with reproductive and developmental impacts in animals and affecting bees and other beneficial insects were also found.
 
The food and agriculture organisation has urged developing countries to phase out these pesticides after 23 children died after eating food contaminated with monocrotophos in 2013.

“Chaotic and conflicting state of regulations in India regarding authorization of pesticides makes it difficult to draw clear conclusions. 68% of 34 pesticides found in samples appear not being registered for use in tea cultivation,” say findings of report.

Neha Siagal, senior campaigner, Greenpeace India said, “Indian tea is our national pride and should not be linked to toxic chemicals with environmental and health risks. All stakeholders must come together and take steps to safeguard the reputation of our national pride.”
 
Greenpeace report says the tea sector is caught in pesticide treadmill and the only way out is ecological farming.

While all companies contacted by Greenpeace have responded, Unilever has announced its plans to undertake a scientific research, including pilots to create a roadmap for non-pesticide management in tea production aiming at holistic rejuvenation of ecosystem.

“Though Tata global beverages (TGBL) has released a statement, it continues to follow the conventional method of combining biological means and chemical control measures,” the study says adding that tea companies need to support adoption of ecological agriculture approaches such as non-pesticide management (NPM) for sustained growth of industry and safety of consumers. NPM is being practiced successfully across the country. It is both economically and ecologically viable.”

Read the report here

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