Posted by: Mahdi Ebrahimi | April 20, 2008

Organic ‘washes’ for vegetables?

They are washed before cut and chopped and washed again before being used in food preparations. But how far does this washing cleanse vegetables?

Pesticides and chemicals used in farms are developed to be waterproof to ensure they are not washed away because of rain or irrigation, says Praveen Nath, a scientist of a Kochi based company that is aggressively marketing its vegetable and fruit cleanser that his company claims rids fruits and vegetables of residues of harmful pesticides and chemicals.

Agricultural and other experts are however skeptical. “There are so many products in the market nowadays that claim to be bio or organic and I would be immediately alert to such a claim,” says Dr T P Rajendran, Additional Director General, Indian Council of Agricultural Research.

Nath adds, “Even though there exist in the west such kind of washes, we have not seen such products being extensively marketed in the country.

Nath says his company’s products contain purely organic surfactants and it is something new finding in biotechnology. Rajendran, however, says, “Surfactants also contain chemicals and it can penetrate the outer covering of the vegetables and fruits.”

Activist Vandana Shiva, who heads the NGO Navdanya, says “Firstly if the food we are consuming is organic then we do not need any washes that are organic. We have to ensure that more and crops are grown organically.” It is a superficial argument that you can wash away pesticides by these washes says Siva, who adds “The Bt toxin is inside the seed of a brinjal. We may be able to wash away the outside of the vegetable but the toxin is inside the vegetable. Genetically modified food has to be done away with.” Ravi Aggarwal of Toxic Links an NGO says, ” I cannot comment on the product but I can say that pesticides are present not only on the surface of vegetables but excessive use of pesticides can affect seeds and some chemicals can be absorbed into the skin also.” Aggarwal adds, “We cannot compete with the rigid standards observed by western countries where such products may be in ample supply. They are much more stringent in food contamination.”


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