64% of veggies 'unsafe' due to pesticides

64% of veggies 'unsafe' due to pesticides

A member of Thai-PAN arranges produce at a press conference held yesterday to alert consumers to the widespread use of harmful pesticides. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
A member of Thai-PAN arranges produce at a press conference held yesterday to alert consumers to the widespread use of harmful pesticides. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

Over 60% of popular vegetables sold at shopping malls and markets are contaminated with a cocktail of pesticides farmers use to boost yields and ensure year-round sales, a food safety network warned Friday.

The Thailand Pesticide Alert Network (Thai-PAN), a non-governmental organisation, conducted a survey on nine vegetables and six types of fruit in Bangkok and four other provinces in late August.

It found 64% of 13 of the products including pak kana chine (Chinese kale), bai bua bok (pennywort) and cha om (climbing wattle) were not safe to eat as they contained harmful chemicals exceeding the maximum residue limit (MRL).

The group found all of the tested fruit was contaminated while one-third contained very high residues, particularly imported and domestic grapes, pineapples and papayas.

More worrying still, all of the tested produce was contaminated with multiple residues indicating a high usage of chemicals as farmers rely on a "cocktail of pesticides in their farming process", Prokchol Ousap, a coordinator at Thai-PAN, said.

Herbicide paraquat, classified by the US Environmental Protection Agency as available for "restricted use", topped the list of toxic chemicals as it made up 38% of the residues, according to the survey. Others included glyphosate (6%) and atrazine (4%), which are also used as weed killers.

Meanwhile, Biodiversity Sustainable Agriculture Food Sovereignty Action Thailand (BioThai), a group considered an ally of Thai-PAN, is preparing to sue the Department of Agriculture at the Administrative Court, it said.

The group is gathering evidence for a suit as the department granted farmers renewed permits to use paraquat despite reports of it being toxic and putting consumers at risk, said Kingkorn Narindharakul Na Ayudhaya of BioThai.

BioThai and other health advocacy networks will continue to demand the chemical be banned in the farming sector, she said, adding the move needs more support from consumers to gain traction.

Health-conscious consumers can mitigate the risk by avoiding off-season and popular legumes, Ms Kingkorn said.

They can also switch over to seasonal and local products like sai bua (lotus stems), phak wan pa (Melientha suavis Pierre) or bai liang and finger roots, all of which were not contaminated, according to the Thai-PAN survey.

Thai-PAN also surveyed produce sold at five supermarkets and found that even though it was more expensive the levels of contamination were higher than at provincial markets.

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