March 22: There are 13 big fruit and vegetable markets in Kathmandu Valley, where hundreds of tons of fruits and vegetables are brought in every day. However, it has been found that the government has been extremely negligent in testing the pesticide residue on the imported fruits and vegetables. The vegetables and fruits that make it to those 13 markets are tested for pesticides by just two employees.
Rajivdas Rajbhandari, senior crop protection officer of the Central Agriculture Laboratory informed New Business Age that pesticide residue testing of fruits and vegetables entering 13 vegetable markets including Kalimati, Balkhu, Kuleshwar, Kalanki Jadibuti, Tinkune, Balaju Machhapokhari, Tukucha, Dhumbarahi, Chabahil, Baneshwar is done by one technician and one assistant. According to him, those employees test pesticide residues only on vegetables and fruits entering the Kalimati market on a daily basis except on public holidays. In Kalimati, 700 to 900 tons of vegetables arrive daily from within Nepal and also from India. Out of them, a maximum of 10 vegetable samples are tested for pesticides. Rajbhandari says that is not enough.
“As there are only two employees, it is a problem to test all the vegetables that reach the market for pesticides. Pesticides are checked in other markets only occasionally. That is not effective. But how much work can two people do?” he questioned.
Rajbhandari remarked that pesticides are being cooked in consumers' kitchens every day because these pesticide tests are not effective.
The laboratory tests two types of pesticides called organophosphate and cabramite in vegetables and fruits. Apart from that, other types of pesticides are also present in vegetables. This confirms that the government is indifferent to the adverse effects it has on human health. Apart from these, the laboratory does not have the technology to check the amount of pesticides.
Consumer rights activists have criticized this action of the government. Bishnu Prasad Timilsina, general secretary of Consumer Protection Forum Nepal says that the government is taking the lead in forcefully feeding poison to the common consumers.
Timilsina said, “Does the government not have the capacity to test pesticides in just 13 vegetable markets?”
Laboratory data shows that green vegetables coming from the domestic market as well as India have high levels of pesticides. According to the laboratory, out of 1,778 vegetable samples tested in Kalimati till March 10, 1,751 samples contained cabramite and organophosphate less than 35 percent (edible). In 10 samples, the amount of pesticide was found between 35 percent to 45 percent. Such vegetables should be kept in quarantine and after a few days they can be consumed after re-testing. The laboratory informed that 17 sample products with pesticide inhibition more than 45 percent were destroyed.
Highest pesticide content is found in vegetables like cauliflower, flat beans, and broccoli. It has been found that vegetables with more pesticides are imported from the domestic market. Laboratory records reveal that vegetables coming from Sarlahi, Bhaktapur, Makwanpur and Dhading have high levels of pesticides. The Department of Food Technology and Quality Control is in charge of testing vegetables coming from foreign countries at the pesticide checkpoint, and the Central Agricultural Laboratory is in charge of testing them in the country. Under the laboratory, pesticides are tested at seven locations namely Birtamod, Lalbandi, Kalimati, Pokhara, Butwal, Nepalganj and Attaria.