Kalimati lab data shows pesticides in vegetables decreasing

Injina Panthi / July 4, 2018

Vegetables at the Kalimati Fruits and Vegetables Market, at Kalimati, Kathmandu.                                                                       Photo: Injina Panthi

Pesticides use has been increasing with the commercialization of agriculture. The pesticides that are used to kill insects, rodents, fungi, weed, and diseases that cause damage to plants, crops, birds, and cattle, have hazardous impact on human health also. Currently, 139 types of chemical pesticides with scientific names and 2,576 types of chemical pesticides with trade names are sold in Nepal. Sixteen types of pesticides are banned in Nepal. Pesticides Registrar Bed Prasad Chaulagain told South Asia Check, “The import of pesticides is not as rampant as claimed by the media. Annual imports have been increasing by around 7-8 percent, which is not high.”

The use of pesticides in Nepal is still low as compared to other countries.

“Statistics show that average use of pesticides in Nepal is 396 grams per hectare. But in the areas involved in commercial vegetable production such as Sarlahi, Kavrepalanchok, Palung, Tistung, Dhading and some districts of the tarai, the average is 1,600 grams per hectare,” according to Chaulagain.

Pesticides residue in a particular vegetable is determined more by the production area and the diseases and pests affecting the vegetables at the time of production, than the vegetable type.

Although pesticides are used to kill certain pests, they can cause harm to other pests and humans as well. The acutely toxic pesticides after one single episode of inhalation, ingestion or skin contact can cause vomiting, sweating, allergic irritation, headache, eye irritation etc. And the long-term pesticides exposure has been linked to development of serious illness and diseases; paralysis, defunct nervous system, infertility, stroke and cancer. An international study has indicated the possible link between exposure to pesticides and cancer. In Nepal, such kind of research has yet to undertake.

Measures taken to curb use of pesticides

Nepal government has been organizing various programs to create awareness and minimize and control the uses of chemical pesticides.

Integrated Pest Management Program (IPM)

Integrated Pest Management approach was initiated in 1997 in partnership with various donor agencies. IPM approach promotes the methodology to control diseases, pest, weeds, birds, and rats and protect plants without interrupting ecological balance and without causing economic loss. It also focuses on selecting proper seeds, preparation of lands, use of alternatives to chemical pesticides – biological and plant pesticides. IPM’s objective is to spread awareness about the impact of chemical pesticides on human health and environment.

Pesticides Test Centers

At present, seven pesticides residue testing labs are in operation across six provinces – at Birtamod of Jhapa in Province 1; at Nawalpur, Sarlahi in Province 2; at Kalimati of Kathmandu in Province 3; at Pokhara of Kaski in Province 4; at Butwal of Rupanedhi and at Nepalgunj of Banke in Province Province 5. There is no lab in Karnali Province. In Province 7, the testing lab is located in Atariya, Kailali.

According to Man Bahadur Chhetri, chief officer at the Kalimati Test Center, “the objective of testing the product is to spread awareness among farmers and vendors about the harmful effects of pesticides on public health and encourage judicious use of chemical pesticides”.

Inspections are done mainly in in three ways:

First is a regular inspection that is carried out at the test centers on a daily basis. The Rapid Pesticide Residue Analysis Laboratory at Kalimati Fruits and Vegetables Market collects around 5-7 samples of vegetables from one of the wholesalers at Kalimati. Initially, they would test ten samples, but over the past few months they have been testing only seven samples per day ‘due to lack of testing chemicals, which are costly’. Each vegetable sample weighs between 250 grams and 500 grams. If the lab test shows high pesticides residues in any of the samples, the concerned lot at the wholesaler’s is destroyed. Occasionally, samples are collected from vegetable trucks also. Several samples are collected from one truck because often a truckload contains produce from different farmers. And even if one of the samples showed inadmissible levels of pesticides, the whole truckload cannot be destroyed; only the lot from which the tainted sample was drawn, is destroyed.

Second is surprise inspection that is mainly conducted at vegetable entry points such as Thankot, Balaju, Jagati (Bhaktapur), and Dakshinkali.

The third type of inspection is usually done by visiting the commercial vegetable farms. They are done on a regular basis but sometimes such inspections are also conducted at the request of various non-governmental organizations.

S.No. Year Total samples tested Highly-toxic vegetable samples
1 June 19 to July 16 2014 187 26
2 FY 2014-2015 1570 15
3 FY 2015-2016 1936 10
4 FY2016-2017 1930 21
5 FY 2017-2018 1697 3
Grand Total (till June 29) 7369 75

Source: Rapid Bio-assay for Pesticide Residue Laboratory, Kalimati, Kathmandu

According to Chhetri, there has been a significant reduction in the use of chemical pesticides in the vegetables sold at Kalimati vegetable market after the lab came into operation. On June 19, 2014 when the lab started testing vegetables, out of the 187 vegetable samples tested over a month, 26 were found inedible due to high pesticides residue. In fiscal year 2014/2015, out of the 1,570 samples tested, only 15 were found inedible.

Likewise, 10 samples were found inedible out of the 1,936 samples tested during the fiscal year 2015/2016. Similarly, in 2016/17, a total of 1930 samples were tested and 21 were found inedible. In the current fiscal year, out of the total 1,697 samples tested only three were found inedible.

In total, the Kalimati lab has tested 7,369 samples and only 75 were found containing high pesticides residue.

Chhetri, meanwhile, said that the main objective of testing the samples is to discourage the use of pesticides while admitting that it is very difficult to punish the guilty and eradicate the problem altogether.

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