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GUWAHATI: Plagued with tea mosquito bugs, the tea industry’s plan to stop increasing pest attacks with the “hazardous dimethoate” has raised safety concerns among planters in Assam.
Central Insecticides Board’s (CIB) recent approval to use the pesticide in tea gardens may lead to compromise safety standards of Assam tea, cautioned a section of leading tea planters of the state. Even those planters who are not opposing the move said maximum residue level (MRL) must be maintained. The Centre’s Banning of Insecticides Order, 2020 stated the pesticide is an organophosphorus compound and “highly toxic” and said its alternatives were available for use. Dimethoate was banned in 31 countries and the ban was in force in EU, Cameroon, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka and Suriname to name a few.
According to the minutes of the 446th meeting of the Registration Committee (RC) OF CIB, held on April 12 and published on Friday, ad-hoc approval for the use of dimethoate against tea mosquito bug in tea plantations has been accorded for a period of one year. The committee also directed the United Planters Association of Southern India (UPASI) and Kannan Devan Tea to submit the residue data as per the guidelines of CIB&RC expeditiously and the same will be examined by the concerned technical experts and SPPR, and the final reports will be placed to RC for a final view.
Well-known tea planter from Assam and former chairman of the Tea Board of India, PK Bezbaruah, said, “The decision to allow this dangerous chemical to be sprayed on tea against helopeltis — the tea mosquito bug — may prove quite harmful for human consumption at a time when tea plantation is heading to a safe mode with the use of safer chemical compounds that were under use of late.”
He feared that the pesticide would be used in Assam as well, following the RC approval. “It’s time to differentiate tea on what the tea garden management sprays,” Bezbaruah added.
Bidyananda Barkakoty, adviser to North Eastern Tea Association, said, “If maximum residue level is not breached after ‘dimethoate’ use, there is no reason to worry and it can be considered safe like other pesticides.”
“Dimethoate is definitely a toxic compound but the crop needs a safe interval between spraying and plucking. However, scientific data on residues of this pesticide must be examined before wide use,” said AK Barooah, former director of Tocklai Tea Research Institute. He said the residue level in exported tea is very low and using it without fixing the MRL can be problematic. He said tea mosquito attack has been quite serious along with increasing pest attack following climate change.
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