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How to Reduce Pesticide Residues in Fruits and Vegetables

The author is postgraduate in Botany and experienced in IPR handling as well as agribusiness management with an MBA, lives in a farmhouse.

Use of agrochemicals

The area under agriculture is diminishing worldwide, making it imperative to produce more from the available unit areas to feed the growing population. So, we have more and more high yielding varieties and diversification of cropping for yield and nutritional security. Crop protection for reducing crop loss is also a method of increasing yield. To do that, we add more manure to soil, do profuse irrigation and spray agrochemicals. Agrochemicals include fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides, pesticides, growth hormones and preservatives. Slowly we are realizing the ill effects of agrochemicals. Major problems related to agrochemicals are from the pesticides, especially the pesticide residues.

If you expect good health and nutrition by consuming amaranths, apples, cabbages, carrots, cherries, coriander, grapes, peaches, pears, potatoes, strawberries, tomatoes and lot more popular fruits and vegetables from the market, what you should do? From where should you buy? After reading this piece of article, you will be able to decide yourselves.

Pesticide coated grapes

Pesticide coated grapes

Types of pesticides

Depending on the nature of the activity of the pesticides, the chemicals are classified into Insecticides, miticides, larvicides, nematicides, acaricides, rodenticides, herbicides, fungicides and molluscicides.

Depending on the chemical composition, these are classified into Organic pesticides and inorganic pesticides, including Organochlorine pesticide, Organophosphorus pesticides, Organosulphuric pesticides, Carbamate pesticides, Neonicotinic pesticides, etc.

Depending on contact and systemic nature also pesticides are classified differently into two. There are fumigants, which are emitting chemical vapours to the atmosphere.

Read the label of the agrochemical bottle thoroughly about the instructions.

Pesticide categoryAction

Herbicides

kill plants

Algicide

kill algae

Fungicides

kill fungi

Insecticides

kill insects

Nematicides

kill nematode worms

Acaricides

kill ticks and flee

Miticides

kill mites and bugs

Molluscicides

kill snails

Rodenticides

kill rats

Aerial spray of pesticide in high concentration

Aerial spray of pesticide in high concentration

Avoid pesticides to the extent possible

Ecological engineering is the present technology o tackles various pests and diseases through the management of various crop cultivation, integration and intercropping with biodynamic farming to avoid pest and disease risks. These technology practices help to forgo pesticide use in agricultural fields. Intercropping of various crops including the pest repellant crops and biofertilizers as well as the bioagents which promote the various microbial activities in the soil and plants help in overcoming disease and pest problems keeping them below threshold limits.


Manage pesticide frequency

Being a farmer, I know the practical difficulties involved in farming and crop protection management. We face some situation where we feel that our crops will be out of our hands due to the pest outbreak. In such situations, we may resort to spraying in such a way that the crop will not be polluted. Mostly the plants are affected by the pests, where we need to give a light spray of pesticides to the leaves alone that too contact pesticides, which will not be translocated through systemic movement. Keeping baits elsewhere in pheromone traps or kairomone mixtures with fruit pulp bait or such remote methods, which will take the pests away without affecting the edible parts of the vegetables or fruits.

Spraying at the time of germination or before flowering and fruiting will also keep the harvests pesticide-free.

Removing pesticides from food

  • Washing the fruits and vegetables soon after harvest and wiping them dry will help in cleaning the drifted pesticide deposits, if any, in them. Mild coconut oil-based detergent can be used for fruits and vegetable washing.
  • Better to avoid fruits and vegetables without safety certificate and suspected appearance.
  • Organic cleaner detergent wash might help to clean contact pesticide spray residues.
  • Some of the consumers say that if we can detect some occasional pest problem in the market produce, it indicates less pesticide use. If you have to get extremely attractive fruits and vegetables from the natural environment, either you must have a controlled greenhouse or pest and disease-free island from which the product arrives or indiscriminate pesticide use.
  • Organically certified or natural farming products.
  • Cooking in pans with release facility might help in overcoming the ill effects of some heat-labile and volatile residues.


Residual action of pesticides

Once the pesticide residue remains in the harvested produce, it will be dangerous. The danger risk magnitude may be different in different cases. However traces may be the residues, if it is present, it can trouble the consumers in one way or the other.

These residues are sometimes inert and harmless. Some residues result in bladder stones and some others cause serious problems. The serious ones may also cause ulcers and cancers in the victims.

According to the potentially harmful nature, these chemicals are divided into different categories.

Bioaccumulation

When we consume contaminated food more, some of the materials get accumulated in the body and over many years, the accumulation continues resulting in plenty of contaminants in the body. Bioaccumulation is such an accumulation of chemicals such as pesticides in organisms due to consumption over a period of time.

Biomagnifications

In the ecological food chain, successive amplification of toxins due to poisons passing through the food chain from organism to organism in a sequential manner and step by step the toxin levels are forming residual magnification or amplification. In carnivores and non-vegetarian human beings, the chances of biomagnification of pesticides are high compared to vegans.

Fumigating open areas to eradicate vectors such as mosquitos

Fumigating open areas to eradicate vectors such as mosquitos

Detection and regulation

Various countries have fixed a benchmark for marketing called maximum pesticide residue level to regulate toxic produce from entering into the markets and putting the consumers at risk. However the availability of laboratories with ISO 17025 certification and sophisticated equipment such as gas chromatography integrated with mass spectroscopy, high precision liquid chromatography, UV-visible spectrophotometer, scanning electron microscopy, artificial intelligence software-based scanners, etc are remote and often time-consuming. Some tricky fruits and vegetable products are not suitable for these also. In such challenging situations, organic molecule-based pesticide residues mimic natural plant composition and become deceiving.

Awareness and social responsibility

Farmers are the food security up keepers of the world. Awareness creation among the farmers is the prime importance. Awareness among the agents and dealers spraying and fumigating on their commodity also put the consumers at risk. So, proper awareness of the dealers and trade agents also are required.

  • Knowledge of proper dosage of pesticides
  • Mode of use and the crop stage at which to be used
  • Climate and harvest time to be considered
  • Risks and hazards to humans and ecology
  • Precautions and guidelines to consumers.

Saving the future generations

Detection of pesticide residues is a very complicated procedure. It requires proper standards and set of conditions to be fixed. Without which the protocols give misleading results. The best method to avoid pesticide residue is to get the fruits and vegetables fro familiar farms and certified product sales locations. Forming buyer and seller consortia of organic produce and safe edible products have no foolproof alternatives. Except for neem oil, tobacco concoction, pest repellant green leaves and flowers and plants, there are no chemically safe alternatives. So, the best way to avoid pesticide residues is to avoid nothing but pesticides used in farming fields and market shelves.

I suggest you, to find a place in your home garden or terrace garden, for healthy stuff.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Halemane Muralikrishna

Comments

Halemane Muralikrishna (author) from South India on March 31, 2020:

Thank you Mr Prateek for spending your time on my article and finding value in it.

Prateek Jain from Madhya Pradesh, India on March 31, 2020:

This is an eye opener for me. I generally heard from my parents that higher use of pesticides and other organic material may cause serious illness. Your article is a practical guide which explained in detail about everything with proper proof. Thank you for sharing this wonderful information. I will take due care from next time while buying fruits from th market and do proper research to get good quality and healthy fruits for my family.

Halemane Muralikrishna (author) from South India on January 09, 2020:

Yes Ms Vidya, wherever possible, we can peel off the things to overcome contact pesticide residues, sacrificing the beneficial compositions of those peels. However, these won't help if the pesticides are systemic in nature.

Vidya21 on January 08, 2020:

Very informative article. Thanks for listing the ways to reduce the pesticide residue from the food.

One way which I feel could help is peeling the outermost layers of fruits (apples/strawberries) before consuming to avoid the chemicals as their concentration is more in the outer layers.

Suchismita Pradhan from India on January 08, 2020:

These days we are not eating vegetables but in the form fresh food we are consuming poison,this is the reason why cancer is becoming endemic.Thanks for sharing its an eye opening knowledgebased article.keep writing.

Halemane Muralikrishna (author) from South India on January 08, 2020:

Thank you, Ms Shing Araya, it is nice that you could spend some time on my article.

Halemane Muralikrishna (author) from South India on January 08, 2020:

Thank you, Mr Rohan, for your parallel thinking.

Prantika Samanta from Kolkata, India on January 08, 2020:

Bioaccumulation and biomagnifi ations are scary, as some of the constituents of the pesticides may bind with certain tissues and cause harmful or fatal diseases. We need to be aware of this and clean the fruits and vegetables properly before consumption. Thank you, Murali, for letting us know how inappropriate usage of pesticides can be detrimental for health.

Rohan Kalonia on January 08, 2020:

This article contains a lot of inner insights about agricultural stuff. It was a knowledgeable read, coming to north India vegetable trend, I can very much relate to your article. Vegetables do not look natural, they are either very big or small. I can relate it to the content you provided

Shing Araya from Cebu, Philippines on January 08, 2020:

Very helpful, thank you.

Halemane Muralikrishna (author) from South India on January 08, 2020:

In fact, pesticides easily get bound to the body fat and get accumulated in the liver, adipose tissue and other places. It becomes a poison within the body. In mild quantities it may cause GORD or cancer, in high quantities, liver sclerosis, succumbing to it under acute cases.

Nitin Khaire from Mumbai on January 08, 2020:

Thank you, Mr. Krishna, for a very informative article. I totally agree with you that we need to grow crops/vegetables that are free of pesticides and healthy for consumption. This is a very good article indeed. I learned how pesticides accumulate in the body and are harmful.