Eliminating poison

The high levels of pesticide and insecticide residues in food articles are a serious public health hazard in the country. Many food items being sold in the market are also known to contain unacceptable levels of veterinary and anti-biotic drugs which contaminate food items at the time of production of crops or later.

 This is different from the deliberate adulteration of food items and is more difficult to control. The Supreme Court has told the Central and state governments and the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) to conduct periodic checks of fruit and vegetable markets and monitor the contents of soft drinks. Harmful substances are present in many of these items of common consumption. The order was in response to a public interest litigation which sought better regulatory control over chemical content in  them. The court has held that the availability of safe food is part of the right to life and dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution and so the authorities had the responsibility to ensure the supply of uncontaminated food. 

India is among the largest users of pesticides in Asia. The levels of use are much higher in the Green Revolution states than in others.  Many pesticides which are banned in other countries and are notified as harmful by the World Health Organisation are freely used in the country. Even those which are prohibited by the government are used. When they enter the food chain they create many health problems and disorders. The serious consequences of the use of endosulfan are well-known as they have been studied and recorded. The application of pesticides and insecticides keeps increasing also because more and more quantities  have to be used when pests and insects develop resistance  to them. They also upset the balance of life in nature by eliminating some species of insects.

Farmers have to be made aware of the harmful effects of using chemicals-based pesticides. Organic farming has not taken off in the country and its products are very costly also. Studies should be made of alternatives to chemical pesticides and they should be made available. The authorities should also ensure that the laws which are meant to avoid contamination of food articles with pesticides are implemented effectively. The government told the court that the Food Safety and Standards Act has provided a regulatory regime to take care of all fears in this respect. But its claim is hard to accept. 

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