Checking excessive pesticide use urgent
Excessive use of pesticides in crops, mainly vegetables and fruits, is a matter of grave concern that requires the authorities' urgent attention, said nutritionists and food safety experts at a discussion yesterday.
“While certain pesticides need to be sprayed twice or thrice on mangoes, farmers often spray it 12 to 15 times,” said Syed Nurul Alam, head of Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute's (BARI) entomology division.
The mean frequency of pesticide use was reported to be highest in summer country bean, summer tomato, summer brinjal, summer cabbage, okra, string bean and chilli, he said.
Nari Oikkya Parishad organised the discussion on Bangladesh's food safety scenario in the capital's Moni Singh-Farhad Trust Bhaban.
Nurul said after mango, the frequency was highest on litchi, banana and papaya, led by farmers of Jessore followed by those of Narsingdi, Comilla, Bogra, Pabna and Rajshahi.
Recent BARI research found 91 percent of chilli samples contaminated with pesticide residues, especially of organo-phosphorus, above the permissible level in 80 percent of samples.
Of dry fish samples, 63.3 percent was similarly contaminated above permissible levels, especially with banned chemicals DDT and Eldrin, said Nurul.
Many studies link chemical pesticide exposure to infertility, cancer, birth defects and brain and nervous system damage while allergies and asthma can also be exacerbated, he said, adding that pesticide poisoning causes around two lakh deaths annually.
Prof Nazma Shaheen of the Institute of Nutrition and Food Science, Dhaka University, said their studies found excessive levels of lead in mango and vegetables.
She observed the number of children with autism to have risen in recent years, very likely to have been caused by chemical use in food products.
Dr Shah Monir Hossain, senior adviser, UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said use of ripening agents like calcium carbide also threatened public health.
He said strong monitoring of pesticide companies was an imperative to check misuse and that FAO was working on how sanitary inspectors could play an effective role in checking food adulteration and contamination.
Speakers also suggested development and expansion of bio-pesticides, promotion of beneficial insects that kill harmful insects and raising massive awareness among farmers to prevent overuse of pesticides.
Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution Director Kamal Prasad Das and Nari Oikkya Parishad President Lutfun Nesa Khan also spoke.