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The Delhi High Court Tuesday directed an experts' committee to submit a report by Aug 17 containing guidelines to prevent the rampant use of banned pesticides in vegetables and fruits. The division bench of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Rajiv Shakdher sought the report from the committee for framing a policy for periodic checks to detect pesticides residue in vegetables posing health threat to people.
The court directed the government to constitute the committee after it took suo motu cognizance of a media report alleging use of banned pesticides. The judges allowed the application of manufacturers of pesticides, moved the court seeking its nod to allow them to give their point of view during the framing of guidelines by the committee.
A seventh member was added to the six-member expert committee by the court. Sandhya Kulshrestha, secretary of the central insecticide board and registration committee, was included in the group on the recommendation of agricultural scientist M.S. Swaminathan, who earlier turned down the court's offer to join the panel. Other committee members are Sarita Bhalla, joint director of agriculture ministry as committee's chairperson, Dhir Singh, director of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, N.K. Sharma, principal scientist in agriculture ministry, S.M. Bhardwaj, food analyst at Delhi's department of food safety, Vipin Bhatnagar, joint director at plant protection quarantine and storage, and senior advocate V.K. Rao.
NGO Consumer Voice's report found that 35 varieties of vegetables and fruits, picked up from Delhi markets and tested for pesticide content, had toxins beyond the permissible limits. It told the court that vegetables and fruits sold in the city's markets contained poisons capable of causing cancer and harming the nervous system and liver. The NGO said that the amount of pesticides used by farmers in India was as much as 750 times higher than the European standards. The court earlier formed a panel of lawyers to examine the pesticide content in various vegetables samples at laboratories. The panel has so far examined over 10 types of vegetables.
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