Pesticides in veg: HC orders lab testing

New Delhi: Concerned over reports of rampant use of banned pesticides in fruits and vegetables, the Delhi High Court on Wednesday asked the Centre and the city government to conduct tests in approved laboratories after procuring vegetables "randomly" from various places here.

"We would like to find out as to whether pesticides are there in the vegetables sold in Delhi or not. It would be appropriate that the vegetables be purchased randomly and sent for the test at laboratories, certified by National Accredition Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories," a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said.

The court asked Additional Solicitor General A S Chandiok, standing counsel for Delhi government Najmi Waziri, Delhi Legal Services Authority member secretary Asha Menon and others to go together for purchasing vegetables from different shops or `mandis` in the national capital.

The bench also allowed two representatives of NGO Consumer Voice to accompany the lawyers.

"A report, after the tests, be submitted before this court within five weeks from today," the bench said.

It said the tests be conducted at laboratories at Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) or other places which were approved by NABL.

Earlier, the court had taken suo motu cognizance of a news report about rampant use of banned pesticides in vegetables and fruits, putting the lives of consumers at risk.

The report, quoting a study on use of banned pesticides, conducted by NGO Consumer Voice said the amount of pesticides used in India was as much as 750 times the European standards.

Out of five internationally banned pesticides, four were found to be common in vegetables and fruits, it said.

These pesticides cause headache and affect fertility and can damage the kidney and liver, the report said.

"It is difficult to perceive how the community would react to such a situation when it is asserted that there has been an authentic research which shows that vegetables and fruits have become highly toxic because of the process of growing and preservation," the bench had then observed.

The NGO said the tests conducted on vegetables at the government-approved and NABL-accredited laboratory revealed that the Indian ladies finger contained captan, a toxic pesticide, up to 15,000 parts per billion (ppb).

The vegetables covered by the study included potato, tomato, snake gourd, pumpkin, cabbage, cucumber and bottle gourd, among others.