A Gangetic pesticide soup

Synthetic pesticides are not only present in our rivers, agricultural fields and groundwater – they are also within our people. We can ban these chemicals, but what is out there is already out there.

A public uproar erupted in early August after a Delhi-based NGO found that Coca-Cola and PepsiCo soft drinks manufactured in India bore significant levels of pesticide. Following up on a similar report released in 2003, the Centre for Science and Environment alleged that these products, gathered from 12 Indian states, contained pesticide levels up to 50 times higher than what is allowed by official limits. Amidst the noise, it was forgotten that the deeper problem is with the water that the local bottlers use to make their colas. Therein lies the real — and alarming — story: the release and persistence of synthetic pesticides, which contaminate water, food and the entire environment.

As such, reports of pesticide residues in soft drinks should not be particularly surprising. Indeed, Rachel Carson's 1962 Silent Spring warned of the looming crisis that would result due to the widespread use of 'chlorinated' pesticides. Nonetheless, after decades of alarm bells, the rampant use of these chemicals continues. Worldwide, about one million people die or face chronic illnesses every year due to pesticide poisoning.

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Himal Southasian