High time for Pakistan to regulate use of pesticides on food items

Pesticides on Food Items
Pesticides on Food Items

ISLAMABAD: The participants of the Workshop on Organic Farming (safe from pesticides and chemicals) demanded of the federal government to immediately come up with policy for promotion of organic food and adoption of international standards such as IFOAM (The IFOAM Standard is an internationally applicable organic standard that can be used directly for certification) that the health conscious can get certified organic and safe food.

The workshop was organised by TheNetwork for Consumer Protection with the theme ‘Lets Go Organic’ at Institute of Environment Sciences and Engineering at National University of Science and Technology (NUST) Islamabad.

There are pockets in Pakistan where organic and safe food is available for consumers. Organic food is the solution of growing food prices and hunger in the world. There is need for federal government to must adopt food certification standards. Policies in support of organic and ecological approaches are important, but need to be supported by a real shift towards sustainable consumption that will support sustainable production, said TheNetwork for Consumer Protection Executive Coordinator Nadeem Iqbal.

The workshop was attended by academia, environmentalists, agriculture researchers, representatives of World Health Organisation (WHO), Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Oxfam GB and National Rural Support Programme, while speakers Dr Sher Muhammad, National Agriculture and Research Council (NARC), Dr Afzal Ahmed Naseem, Pakistan Environment Protection Agency (EPA), Dr Ghulam Nabi Qazi, WHO, Dr Shahid Mehmood Zia, Lok Sanjh Foundation and Dr Imran Hashmi, Institute of Environment Sciences and Engineering (IESE- NUST) highlighted the significance and challenges for organic agriculture in Pakistan.

Dr Muhammad from NARC stated that demand is increasing for organic food in Pakistan as 50,000 acres (2007-08) while 240,000 acres in 2012-13 are managed organically.

Dr Imran Hashmi from IESE-NUST said that organic farming uses environmental-friendly inputs and therefore generates safe foods and services. Such farming, therefore, positively contributes to significant reduction in air, soil and ground water pollution.

Dr Afzaal Ahmed Naseem, Pak-EPA said that pesticide use leads to loss of biodiversity and upsets delicate balance of ecosystems. Pesticides use leads to emergence of more destructive pests and, subsequently, increased crop losses. Organic farming and banning pesticides is the only solution for that.

Speakers concluded that the situation is alarming in Pakistan as the country is facing greater threat of losing many international markets after the introduction of World Trade Organisation (WTO) due to over use of pesticides for farming of food items. Currently Pakistan is exporting mainly to Middle East, Sri Lanka and Central Russian States where quality standards are not as stricter and important as compared to developed countries.

It was recommended by the speakers of workshop that Pakistan need to ban highly hazardous pesticides and introduce legislation on organic certification. A national working group is needed to be constituted at National level to adopt the IFOAM standards.

There are two international worldwide standards, the Codex Alimentarius Guidelines for organic production (FAO) and IFOAM Organic Standard. These form the basis for legislation in the EU, USA, Japan and other countries. Today a total of 110 countries have legislation for organic production, either established or in draft stages. Some of the most important countries with legislation are the USA, Canada, China, India, South Korea, Japan, the EU and its Member States, Argentina and Brazil.

While emphasising the need to promote organic farming and organic-safe food items for consumers, Iqbal said that it is a basic right of consumers to access to safe and healthy food and environment. Moreover, as a responsible consumer it is an obligation to demand for safe food which is certainly organic.

Iqbal made reference of the famous quote of Colin Tudge from his ‘Feeding People is Easy, 2007’ that ‘everyone who is ever liable to be born could be well fed, forever … to the highest standards of nutrition and gastronomy … but the food chain we have now is not designed to feed people … it is designed to produce the maximum amount of cash in the shortest time … the global free market is disastrous (for farming)’.

The campaign for organic farming in Pakistan is supported by Consumers International (UK) and Swedish Society for Nature Conservation. Courtesy DAILY Times

Published in ZaraiMedia.com

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