Hope And Relief
The All India Network Project on Pesticide Residues (a Government of India scheme to monitor residues through 21 laboratories around the country show that Cauliflower, Cabbage, Okra/Bhindi, Brinjal, Tomato, Bittergourd etc., amongst vegetables have shown up pesticide residues above MRLs in testing of samples in different states. Apple, Orange, Pear and Banana are also part of this list in addition to some foods like rice, wheat, milk, meat etc..
Very often, experts will tell you to wash your veggies and fruits carefully and thoroughly before cooking them/consuming them to get rid of pesticide residues. Some would say, soak them in salt water before consuming.
It is obvious that washing and cleaning will go to some extent in reducing residues in your food. However, don't think this is a full solution. Because many systemic pesticides are not just on the surface of the fruits and veggies but all over, inside.
This is the same reason why we at India For Safe Food don't believe that peeling off the skin of the fruits that you eat will keep you safe. However, we do admit that a small degree of improvement might happen with measures such as this.
However, the real and lasting solutions lie elsewhere.
1. For instance, procuring and consuming organic produce.
Please don't begin by saying that organic is exorbitantly priced. Not always – not everywhere. Even if it is slightly over-priced, compared to chemical-laden produce, remember that you might be saving on healthcare costs on the long run. Very often, middle class consumers do not hesitate to shell out that extra money for branded products which does not in reality add anything tangible in terms of benefits. If we do not hesitate to spend extra on branded products elsewhere, why hesitate to pay a little more on safe food?
Organic food is also priced higher today because there is no level playing field between organic and chemical. Rather than ask the chemical produce to be labeled for all its toxins, curiously enough, we have a system where organic farmers are penalized to prove themselves as organic wherein they incur additional costs for certification etc. One of the things that we should do is to put pressure on the government to ensure access to affordable, safe food. SEND A PETITION TO UNION AGRICULTURE MINISTER NOW.
2. Another thing that you can easily do to access Safe Food is to shift to coarse millets like Little Millet, Kodo Millet, Foxtail Millet, Proso Millet, Barnyard Millet etc., since these millets are grown in organic conditions by farmers. These are hardy traditional crops that do not require any chemical inputs for their cultivation and are therefore, "default organic". What's more, these grains are also much more nutritious than rice or wheat. Such a shift to millets will not only bring in an element of safety in our food, but diversity and nutrition too. LEARN MORE ABOUT THESE FORGOTTEN BUT WONDERFUL FOODS HERE.
3. Also, even within organic, procure local and seasonal foods, not just for safety reasons but also for leaving a smaller eco-foot print behind your food consumption patterns.
4. Even if you are living in a city, you can easily ensure safe food for yourself partially, by growing your own vegetables in your balcony/terrace/courtyard etc. Take up such kitchen gardening and grow some of your favourite vegetables without the use of any chemicals. Several organizations and individuals are coming forward in different cities these days, to support those citizens who want to take up urban gardening by providing them with seeds, training, other resource materials etc. (watch out for a list of such resource agencies/persons from different states of India to be uploaded here soon; kindly also let us know if you are aware of any such groups/individuals with their full contacts, to be added to the compilation we are doing).
5. Encourage Schools and Colleges in your vicinity or to which your children are sent, to take up organic gardening/farming along with the children and the same to be included in the school kitchen/cooking. This will ensure safer food for our children.
6. If you can actually make the effort of going one step further, you and your friends, as a group, can tie up with a group of farmers closest to you to support those farmers to shift to organic cultivation. Here, you will not only get to know your farmer and his/her farm, you might be able to encourage the cultivation of crops/vegetables that you prefer. In the process, the farmers also benefit with assured markets from you and your friends in addition to any other input that you can support with including voluntary time spent on the farm, creating a win-win situation.
7. Once you change your own purchase and consumption behaviour related to food (including getting into food production wherever you can), start spreading the word. What has that got to do with Safe Food, you might ask. Well, when the demand for Safe Food grows, markets will push the demand back to the production end, where farmers will also realize that there are better markets for organic produce and start cultivating without toxins. This will imply large scale changes, which will make safe food more accessible to you too ultimately!