Saturday, August 9, 2003

Pesticides in fruits, vegetables

August 9, 2003
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Aug 8: It's not just soft drinks which are loaded with high levels of poisonous chemicals. Fresh fruits and vegetables, milk, cheese, ice creams, sweets, and chicken too have residues of harmful chemicals in them, scientists said.
A WHO study several years back had revealed that pesticide levels even in human milk in India were alarmingly high, Prof S A Abbasi, senior professor and director, Centre for Pollution Control and Energy Technology at the Pondicherry University, said.
Laboratory studies have shown that more than 60 per cent of vegetable and fruit samples collected from different parts of Andhra Pradesh are contaminated with harmful pesticides. Experts are particularly alarmed over the presence of DDT in samples of fruits and vegetables grown in the State.
According to a report of the Food Protectants and Infestation Control Department of the Central Food Technological Research Institute, Mysore, high levels of DDT residues had been reported from Andhra Pradesh, "probably due to intensive application of DDT for vector control under the malaria irradiation programme".
Agro-products grown in the State are so contaminated with pesticides that several European nations have imposed restrictions on their import. The situation is so alarming that the Central government has reportedly instructed a major public laboratory in the city not to publish its test findings in the annual report.
"We used to carry the details in our publications till two years ago. Now we have been asked to report the data only to Delhi," a senior official admitted.
As against the maximum residual value of 5 ppm fixed for DDT by the WHO and the Food and Agriculture Organisation, samples from the State contained DDT up to 3 ppm. Though the residual level is below the MRL, the very presence of DDT points to the extent of pesticide contamination in food products.
Studies by the city-based NIN on 68 fruit and vegetable samples and the Pesticide Residue Laboratory of Angrau on scores of samples revealed that most of the fruits and vegetables tested were contaminated with pesticides and insecticides. Agro products like guava, banana and leafy vegetables were relatively free of contaminants.
While NIN conducted tests on 10 varieties of grapes, apples, mangoes, potatoes, beans, carrots and tomatoes, the university laboratory studied lady fingers, tomatoes, mangoes, grapes, brinjals and cauliflower.
The agro products were obtained both directly from fields and from city markets. Vegetables are grown on just three per cent of the total cultivable area in the State and yet the pesticide consumption is as high as 14 per cent. Taking body weight into account, children consume three to 21 times more of these agro products than adults do, exposing them to higher risk.
"The pesticide residues are well within the MRL values. Even these quantities can be eliminated by thoroughly washing the vegetables or fruits. About 90 per cent of the residues can be eliminated from wheat and rice by washing the grains several times. The toxicity or otherwise of these pesticides depend on the acceptable daily intake ratio", NIN deputy director S Babu told Deccan Chronicle.
The studies revealed the presence of harmful chemicals like carbaril, monocrotofos, phosalone, dimethioate, cypermethrin, feneolerate, Melathion, phanpimethane, mithamil, prophenophos, permethrin, metalaxil, diethane M45, ridonil MZ, carbandizam, diophinatemythyl and deltamethrin.
According to Central Integrated Pest Management Centre sources, Guntur, Prakasam, Krishna, Khammam and Warangal districts are notorious for their high intake of pesticides.

Tuesday, August 5, 2003

Forest Atlas of Andhra Pradesh Is Ready

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Aug 5: For the first time the State will have its own "forest atlas" which guides people on the topography of the State's reserve forests and its fast declining wildlife.
The State Forests Department is using the state-of-the-art satellite imagery technology to prepare the forest atlas with both colour and black and white satellite photographs. The forest atlas is likely to be in place by the end of this year.
"It will give spatial distribution of forest type along with density. It involves overlay analysis of forest types with forest density coverage. The forest type map will be generated using multi-spectral LISS-III (colour cameras) and hyper-spectral data. The density mapping will be done using PAN (black and white images) data," a senior forest official in the GIS told this correspondent.
The department will also map the bamboo areas in reserve forests using the satellite remote sensing data and the existing forest working plans. Based on this the probable out-turn will be estimated. Officials are now busy taking inventory of bamboo vegetation. Vegetation type mapping will be taken up employing satellite data and forest working plans.
The forests department boasts of 63,814 sq km of forest area while actual dense forest area is just 23,048 sq km. As much as 19,859 sq km is under "open forest" which means thin or degraded forest area. The proposed forest atlas will give an idea on the nature of various forest types, the flora and fauna they contain, and the density or otherwise of reserve forests.