The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has asked its imports division to check consignment of pulses for the presence of herbicide glyphosate. These samples would be tested by regional laboratories and the results have to be shared with FSSAI every 15 days.
The lentils such as masoor dal and moong dal are said to be induced with hazardous herbicide Glyphosate which is being used indiscriminately by farmers in some countries to clear weeds in the crop.
Since India does not have any set standards for maximum residual limits for glyphosate, the authority has decided to use the standards set by Codex Alimentarius, a joint committee set by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). These standards allow MRL of 2 mg/kg in in beans and 5 mg/kg for lentils and peas.
“There is a possibility of higher levels of residues of the herbicide Glyphosate in pulses which could adversely affect the health of consumers here. Since the minimum residual limits (MRL) for Glyphosate in pulses has not been specified in the FSSAI regulations, we have asked the concerned officials to follow the MRL for the herbicide as specified in the Codex standards.
Since 1961, the Codex Alimentarius international food standards, guidelines and codes of practice has been providing a common set of standards for food safety, ranging from nutrition labelling to maximum residue limits (MRLs) for pesticides. However, countries can develop their own separate standards.
The FSSAI, in a recent order in this regard has also directed the authorised officers to instruct laboratories to test for the presence of herbicide ’Glyphosate” along with other parameters when the samples for pulses are forwarded for testing.
Known to be highly toxic and harmful to health, Glyphosate can adversely affect immunity to serious diseases and the absorption of mineral and vitamin nutrients, apart from disrupting protein-related functions.
Food safety and agricultural scientists are warning that the use of glyphosate may prove dangerous as in Sri Lanka, where many sugarcane farmers died due to renal failure after being overexposed to the herbicide.
The pulses need to be tested for glyphosate residue at every entry point which is not being carried out presently, said the FSSAI official.
Till 2015, the herbicide was considered to be safe but then the World Health Organisation’s IARC classified it as a probable human carcinogen. In India, it seems that Glyphosate is being used as a pre-harvest desiccant in several crops resulting in high residues in food.