The deep crisis affecting the farming community in India largely escapes the imagination of the urban population. It might be because food production is almost completely delinked here from food consumption. Food is seen as a commodity which can be bought over the counter, with quality assured by the tag of the supermarket or a popular brand. The ecological footprint that such food production and supply chains leave is largely ignored or not understood. The distress experienced by food producing communities is invisible. Consumers also tend to ignore the implications on themselves flowing from (lack of) food safety.,
As citizens and as consumers of food, we never relate ourselves to the farming community and always carry a feeling that the technology, policies and regulatory systems related agriculture are the concern of the farmers.
This report is the result of a pilot study on ‘Pesticides, Residues and Regulation in India’. It is an attempt to break the apathy and ignorance of consumers through the analysis of how pesticides and pesticide residues in food are regulated in India and the potential implications on urban consumers.
With a lot of effort from civil society groups and concerned activists, there is now a shift towards production that is not dependent on chemicals. Concern over the health implications of toxic pesticides has also prompted some people to shift towards organically grown foods.
On the other hand, governments, agricultural research and extension system and the chemical industry continue to believe in the ‘inevitability of pesticides’ and continue to talk only about safer pesticides, safe use of pesticides, better regulatory systems etc. The issue of pesticide residues receives some attention only when the export consignments are rejected or studies on soft drinks or bottled water are released. The larger issues of food safety for consumers and sustainable resource management for producers are largely ignored. Working backwards, we tried to look at how pesticide residues in food are regulated in India, how pesticides themselves are regulated, recommended, the institutions involved & their functioning etc. The study used both primary and secondary data for its analysis.
Our research shows several objectionable gaps and lapses in the regulatory systems, several contradictions even at the conceptual level and gross negligence with regard to assessing and promoting safer and better alternatives.
This pilot study is part of the Sustainable Hyderabad ‘Megacity Project’. ( http://www.sustainable-hyderabad.in).
Supported extended by farmers around Hyderabad city and other experts is gratefully acknowledged.