Your cup of tea could be toxic

Mumbai :  You start your day with a cocktail of pesticides, if international environmental organization Greenpeace is to be believed.

“A study carried out by Greenpeace India over a period of one year has found pesticide residue in a majority of brands, including Brooke Bond, Tata Tea, Wagh Bakri, etc’’ Neha Sehgal, senior campaigner, Greenpeace India, said at a press conference here on Monday.

As much as 94 per cent of the 49 samples tested contained residues of at least one pesticide, 59 per cent samples contained a ‘cocktail’ of more than 10 different pesticides and 59 per cent samples contained residues of at least one pesticide active ingredient above the Maximum Residue Level set by the European Union.

Greenpeace is a non-profit organisation functioning in 40 countries across the world. The study, done by its Indian wing, has focussed on pesticide residues in tea since it is the most widely consumed beverage in the country.

 Greenpeace picked up samples of tea manufactured by 8 major brands from four Indian cities over a period of June 2013 to May 2014. These samples were sent to accredited laboratories to test the presence of 350 pesticides and a total of 34 pesticides were found in 46 samples, that is, 94 percent of tested samples. These include pesticides classified as highly hazardous (class 1b) as well as moderately hazardous (class II), as per the WHO parameters. A large number of samples tested positive for a cocktail of toxic pesticides and DDT was present in almost 67 percent of the samples, even though its use has been banned in 1989.

Many tea samples tested positive for monocrotophos, a highly toxic organ phosphorous pesticide. In fact, 68 perce-nt of the 34 pesticides found are not even registered for use in cultivating tea.

Seven of the samples of Brooke Bond tea contained traces of 12-20 pesticides, while 8 of the Tata Tea samples contained 11-15 pesticides. Similar results were thrown up by companies such as Kho-Cha, Lipton, Tetley, Twinings, Wagh Bakri, Goodricke Kanan Devan and Golden Tips. Long term consumption of these pesticides may result in endocrine disruption, reproductive problems, neuro-behavioural problems, carcinogenesis and an impact on the immune system

When approached by Greenpeace, only one company, Hindustan Unilever, agreed to take the first step of creating a roadmap to eliminate the use of pesticides.

Greenpeace now plans to urge all these companies to phase out the use of pesticides altogether. It suggests disclosing names and locations of tea plantations, developing and investing in a roadmap along with appropriate stakeholders to gradually phase out pesticides in the supply chain and liaising with government bodies to support small tea growers to avoid pesticides altogether.

Indian tea is safe: Govt

The government on Monday rejected the findings of Greenpeace, saying that Indian tea is totally safe and the industry follows high standards. “The Tea Board of India, having reviewed the findings of the Greenpeace study, can confirm that all the samples tested comply with the Indian laws and regulations. Indian teas are well regarded the world over and are totally safe following stringent standards,” an official statement said.

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