In a media statement put out today, ASHA (Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture) welcomed the understanding and analysis of Union Minister for Fertilisers Mr Ananth Kumar who said that he will recommend banning of pesticides that are hazardous to our Nature and biodiversity. The Union Minister also said that pesticides that have been banned in other countries could also be banned in India. Further, he put out a call for bio-pesticides to be used more. These are welcome statements, and ASHA has been pointing out with evidence from the ground that synthetic pesticides are not inevitable in agriculture and there are natural, biological ways of pest/disease management. Recently, on the first anniversary of the Bihar Mid Day Meal tragedy, ASHA released a new report "Serving Death?: A case for safe food for children in India" which showed that poisoning from pesticides is a routine, unaccountable phenomenon in India, and called upon the government to ensure safe food for children to begin with, by ensuring that organic food is procured and served in all food schemes of the government, and by other means [].

Reacting to the pesticides industry reportedly issuing a legal notice to Greenpeace India for their recent report that highlighted pesticide residues in popular Indian tea brands, ASHA (Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture) pointed out that this is not the first time that the pesticide industry is trying to muzzle genuine research and public awareness efforts. Further, the fact of residues in Indian foods and the situation of serious regulatory lacunae is a reality that was held up by other studies and groups too in the past. Instead of allowing the tea industry to shift towards sustainable ecological solutions, it is unsurprising that the pesticides industry continues to defend its toxic products given the industry's bottomline for profits.

ASHA also welcomed the fact that several tea companies have already come forward to commit themselves to shifting towards NPM or organic tea cultivation. ASHA called on other players in the food industry to clean up their products too.

Greenpeace India recently released a report, Trouble Brewing, on the level of pesticides in the tea sold by leading national and international brands in India. The report said the tea sold by the top tea brands in India contained chemical residues of chemicals that are not supposed to be used in tea in the first instance, and also higher than the MRLs set by EU; the report further pointed out that MRLs in India have not been set for all the pesticides allowed. The Union Commerce Minister Ms Nirmala Sitharaman has expressed her concern about consumer health impacts, reacting to this new report from Greenpeace in a recent interview to a media house. "It is a matter of concern that the Tea Research Association (TRA) has reacted by justifying how chemicals are indeed needed in tea production whereas there is evidence of successful organic tea brands and organic tea farmers in India; similarly, the TRA's press conference also claimed that residues would not be present in the brewed beverage, whereas there are presentations by Tea Board representatives in the past about residues on tea carried forward into the infusion []. In fact, the Tea Board representative's intervention in a regulators' meeting (ibid, August 30th 2010) shows an admission of use of unregistered pesticides on tea in India. In the past, TRA itself has come out with statements on clean tea and the need to review agrochemical use in tea plantations. Earlier, the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Pesticide Residues (2004) also recorded export consignment rejections of tea due to pesticide residues. Meanwhile, there are also scientific papers from the NARS which do showcase sustainable pest management in tea. It is time that consumer health was prioritized by the tea industry and for the industry to take up a committed shift towards ecological management of pests and diseases which is very much possible. It is also time for the government and its various agencies to lend special support and incentives for small organic tea producers who are showing the way forward", said ASHA in a statement.

ASHA also pointed out that much was problematic with the Indian regulatory system with regard to pesticides and reiterated its demand for a complete overhaul of the statutory framework and the actual regulatory regime ( ASHA called upon the food industry to clean up their products to ensure the right to safe food for all Indians.