Not all vegetables and fruits that carry the ‘Organic’ tag have been grown without the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, as experts are discovering now.

Chillies, cauliflower, long beans, coriander, mint and red spinach samples that were tested at the pesticide residue laboratory of the Kerala Agricultural University have been found to contain traces of pesticides.

Prof. Thomas Biju Mathew, who heads the lab, says the samples were drawn from both the open market as well as shops claiming to sell ‘organic’ produce.

Officials are working to convince the farmers to eliminate harmful substances from their cultivation methods, rather than punishing them for using these. “They were told that they … were labelling the product organic when it had pesticide residues. The warnings seem to have helped and the residue levels have come down,” said Prof. Mathew, who is also principal investigator of Safe to Eat Vegetable Scheme of the Government of Kerala.

Food safety officials say that since the relevant Acts don’t identify any particular foods as ‘organic’, all they can do is monitor pesticide residue levels. “We will seize a product if it crosses permissible residue levels,’’ said T V Anupama, Food Safety Commissioner.

For now, vegetable samples from Kasaragod in the State are being regularly monitored, as it has been declared an organic district.


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