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Food safety: Experts caution against excessive pesticide use

Seminar discusses future course of action. PHOTO: AFP

Seminar discusses future course of action. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: Speakers underlined the importance of building alliances to formulate an effective policy on safe and organic food in the country.

In this regard, a seminar organised by The Network for Consumers Protection (TNCP) on Tuesday analysed existing safe food regulatory frameworks and formulated a future course of action with recommendations on how to make food safe for consumers by addressing the excessive use of pesticides and synthetic fertilisers.

The seminar focused on building alliances with stakeholders to target policymakers as well as the country’s Ministry of National Food Security and Research, to build support for a draft on the Organic Farming Policy.

This will help to build a strategy to overcome future challenges and ensure the availability of safer organic food choices, in line with UN Guidelines for Consumer Protection (1985), which lists safe food under “the right to basic needs”.

The country’s food security policy centres on growing food using excessive pesticide, reducing food safety. The yearly use of pesticide has increased to over 61,229 tons, yet federal and provincial laws ensuring safe food are not well integrated.

At present, the Plant Protection Department registers pesticide imports; the Environment Protection Agency tells them how to use them; the standards authority determines the parameters; and provincial food authorities implement them.

TNCP CEO Nadeem Iqbal said, “In recent times, the service delivery sector has been taken over by corporate entities, resulting in a trust-deficit between state and citizens.”

Prof Imran Hashmi, Associate Dean at the environmental science school at NUST, said “Pesticides are carcinogenic and can result in various diseases which may reduce life expectancy. One pesticide-laden apple can reduce life expectancy by one day.” Capital Development Authority Health Director Hassan Urooj cited a study which said the use of pesticides has increased the prevalence of cancer by 26 times, compared to areas where pesticides are not used.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 23rd, 2015.

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