How safe is green ?

The green fresh vegetables available in the market everybody knows contains high contents of pesticides, but it has now emerged that more harmful chemicals are present in alarmingly high doses across the country. Few years back a report by the Agriculture Ministry showed that there has been an almost two-fold increase in the number of samples having pesticides above the permitted Maximum Residue Level (MRL) in vegetables, fruits, meat and spices. 
The major culprits were green chilli, cauliflower, cabbage, brinjal, okra, tomato, capsicum and coriander leaves. The samples were picked up from Mandis, retail shops and also from farm gates. The situation was equally alarming in this part of the region. A large number of vegetables grown included spinach, coriander leaves, capsicum and okra and a large part of vegetables available have high presence of pesticides. 
Recently, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) had proposed regulations for heavy metal content in a whole range of food items including vegetables to hold traders accountable and also to persuade Indian farmers to do responsible farming and adopt good practices. In developed countries, consumers get safe food, including fresh vegetables. 
Once these standards are in place to carry out tests instantly and disseminate the information to people, that will create an atmosphere where everyone in the production and supply chain will behave responsibly. Interestingly, the Agriculture Ministry’s report showed that the number of samples having high dose of pesticide was more in samples picked up from Mandis than the ones collected from the farm gate. 
Consuming pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables for a long period of time can prove fatal affecting the nervous system and other important organs such as liver and kidney. Food wasn’t always so scary. For most of human history, we ate our meats, grains, fruits and vegetables pretty much the way we found them. Oh sure, as our species got more sophisticated, we cooked, ground, dried and aged things a bit. But in the past 60 years, our foodstuffs have changed dramatically, and not all for the better.

Garg brothers show the way for safe food

From ripening the ‘King of Fruits’ the natural way and making big bucks to preventing the consumption of adulterated food, this IITan and his brother have come a long way.
All of 21, Shivank Garg the mango entrepreneur has quickly turned the corner to set up a social startup aimed at educating the government and public on the ill effects of consuming adulterated food.
Shivank, a final-year student of IIT Kanpur is a mechanical engineer in the making while his younger brother and Co-founder of Vegley, Shivam S. Garg, is studying electrical engineering from MAIT, Delhi.
Shivank Garg (L) and his brother Shivam S. Garg
Despite a healthy turnover of over Rs 1 crore in a short span, the Garg brothers have decided to turn social entrepreneurs.
“Once we made Rs 1 crore at this age, we could very easily have scaled up our naturally-ripened mango business to reach Rs 100 crore. But this is not our intention. We have realised that the use of adulterants in our food chain is causing much more damage and we want to help the government put a stop to these unethical practices and banish pesticides and insecticides from farms,” says Shivank, CEO and Co-founder of Vegley.
Vegley created ripples in the NCR market last summer when they sold their naturally ripened mangoes in neatly packed boxes and used refrigerated delivery vans. The brothers set up five offices and a 3,600 sqft godown near Azadpur Mandi, Asia’s largest fruit and vegetable market. They had 25 people on their payroll.
India is the world’s largest producer of mangoes at 18 million tonnes per annum, and about 98 percent of them are ripened using adulterated methods.
Though their family is from Delhi, they originally belong to Haryana, where their grandfather was a farmer in a village near Sonepat. “We are grateful to our father, Sanjeev Garg, for having bootstrapped us. He encouraged us to take risks despite the fact that we were both not even 20 years old.”
Poisoned food chain, a slow killer:
Shivank is alarmed that the annual International Mango Festival in Delhi is a hotbed of such adulterated ripening activity. “The government has not taken any action despite ‘masala’ — the Hindi slang for calcium carbide — being used on the very premises. I have even written to the Delhi CM and the health minister, but no action seems to be forthcoming.”
Traditionally, mangoes are ripened using calcium carbide, which is a strong reactive chemical that contains traces of arsenic and phosphorous. It has carcinogenic properties and is used in gas welding. It can cause kidney and liver damage, neurological disorders, ulcers, and other health hazards. “Sometimes, if you eat a mango, you may feel uneasy. This is a sure sign of calcium carbide-ripened mangoes. Such fruits are especially dangerous to pregnant women, as babies can develop abnormalities, a reason why it’s banned in many developed countries,” says Shivank.
Fruits are generally divided into climacteric and non-climacteric varieties. Fruits such as banana, papaya, sapota, mango, guava, and apple are climacteric, meaning they need to be ripened post harvest while non-climacteric fruits such as grapes and strawberries can be eaten directly after plucking.
Ripening them the natural way:
Following extensive research and meetings with experts, Shivank and Shivam decided to ripen mangoes in controlled atmospheric chambers in which they deployed optimum temperature, humidity, and controlled composition of different gases such as carbon dioxide and ethylene. These fruits also secrete ethylene naturally and are suitable for human consumption.
This way, they built a capacity to ripen five metric tonnes per day.
When used, calcium carbide releases acetylene, which has properties similar to ethylene and ripens the mango, but deteriorates the taste and quality of the fruit. Black hole-like spots appear in calcium carbide-ripened mangoes.
Creating social awareness:
After this experience, the brothers have now turned their attention to educating the government and raising awareness among the public. Shivank says people are forced to consume these poisonous fruits due to non-availability of naturally ripened fruits.
In fact, the use of calcium carbide has been banned for use in food substances and ripening processes by the Food Safety and Standards Regulations Act 2011, Food Safety and Standards Act 2006, and Prevention of Food Adulteration Act 1955, but it is still rampantly used.
The Garg brothers have already reached out to the president, prime minister, governors, several state chief ministers and their health ministers. The UP Governor, Ram Naik, has appreciated their efforts and recommended that the state ban these substances, especially as the Saharanpur–Lucknow–Meerut belt contains major mango-producing areas.
Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, PJ Kurien, appreciated their efforts and forwarded the letter to the union health minister for action. In that letter, he has said: “I am forwarding a very interesting letter…I would therefore appreciate if you kindly see if these new initiatives of these two young students could be utilised on a larger scale to prevent adulteration in our food chain.”
Health Minister JP Nadda has appreciated the students’ cause and promised to look into the matter with all seriousness.
It’s not about mangoes alone:
Shivank says their focus is on such poisoning affecting the entire food chain, where fruits, vegetables, and pulses are hastened to reach the end user. “It is a major health concern which affects a large number of Indians who spend a good part of their salaries on food. This is a heavy price to pay. I am now inclined to take this up in a big way as a social movement to keep the people of our nation healthy.”
Vegley is now a social startup aimed at preventing the consumption of adulterated food by citizens and is not in the business of selling mangoes this year.
So why would the brothers invest their precious student hours for this?
“Someone has to address this problem. How can we continue to let this happen, especially when the world is looking up to India? We have to find a solution to give everyone a healthy choice. It is high time we stopped those who are keen to take us for a ride to make a few quick bucks,” says the plucky Shivank.

Nearly 300,000 suicides in India so far from GMO crop failures

(NaturalNews) The Western media is steeped in denial about the true damage being caused by genetically modified (GM) crops, especially in the developing Third World. But despite the lies you may have heard from mainstream news sources, nearly 300,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide since 1995 as a direct result of mounting debt and crop failures associated with GMO crops, and mainly cotton crops that were forcibly converted to patented, transgenic varieties owned by Big Biotech.

A report by India’s National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) revealed that, between 1995 and 2011, 290,740 farmer suicides had taken place due to economic failure, poverty and bankruptcy caused by GMO adoption. And in the years since that time, for which there is no official data, there have more than likely been thousands of additional suicides, bringing this number to at least 300,000 and possibly higher.

As explained in a thorough report by philosopher, physicist and environmental activist Dr. Vandana Shiva, GMO crop technologies are a Trojan Horse that multinational corporations are using to seize control of the global food supply. With false promises of increased yields and lower costs, corporations like Monsanto have swooped in and locked Indian farmers into contractual agreements that make them dependent on a centralized agriculture system that, in many cases, ends up bankrupting them.

Before Monsanto came along and changed everything, thanks to the 1988 Seed Policy imposed by the World Bank, Indian farmers grew heritage cotton amidst a variety of other crops, which effectively guarded them against invasive species and insect pests. Since the seeds of these crops were natural, farmers could save them year after year and replant them without having to pay royalties for new seeds.

The system wasn’t perfect, of course. But it did allow Indian farmers the freedom to control their own agricultural destinies and didn’t plunge them into excessive debt, which is what many of them now face as a result of Monsanto’s GMOs. According to Dr. Shiva’s extensive research, the new system has essentially created slaves out of India’s farmers, who are now locked into contractual agreements with Big Biotech, with no way of escape.

“Through patents on seed, Monsanto has become the ‘Life Lord’ of our planet, collecting rents for life’s renewal from farmers, the original breeders,” wrote Dr. Shiva for Global Research.

“These are seeds of deception — the deception that Monsanto is the creator of seeds and life; the deception that while Monsanto sues farmers and traps them in debt, it pretends to be working for farmers’ welfare, and the deception that GMOs feed the world. GMOs are failing to control pests and weeds, and have instead led to the emergence of superpests and superweeds.”

Monsanto illegally seized control of 95 percent of India’s cotton seeds, with no consequences

Dr. Shiva documents the entry of Monsanto into India beginning in the late 1980s, citing its incremental takeover of the nation’s agricultural system. It all began when India deregulated its seed sector, which led to the gradual concentration of the seed sector. Monsanto proceeded to buy up all the seed companies it could get its hands on, creating joint ventures and licensing agreements with those that remained.

In time, the common pool of seeds available to Indian farmers came to be comprised almost solely of patented Monsanto seeds, which were branded and marketed as miracle seeds that would make farmers rich and supply food for everyone. Once adopted, however, these “terminator” seeds turned out to have the opposite effect — hundreds of thousands of Indian farmers ended up losing their crops, their bank accounts, their livelihoods and in many cases their lives, as a result of taking the GMO bait.

“[S]eed which had been the farmers’ common resource became the ‘intellectual property’ of Monsanto, for which it started collecting royalties, thus raising the costs of seed,” explained Dr. Shiva. “[O]pen pollinated cotton seeds were displaced by hybrids, including GMO hybrids. … [C]otton which had earlier been grown as a mixture with food crops now had to be grown as a monoculture, with higher vulnerability to pests, disease, drought and crop failure.”

Now, Monsanto owns a whopping 95 percent of India’s cotton seeds, which by any accepted definitions of the word is a near-total monopoly. It was only able to achieve this, of course, through deception and illegal activity, including open-air field trials that it conducted back in the late 1990s and which had never been approved by India’s government. Monsanto continued these trials anyway, despite their illegality, and eventually took control of the entire industry.

“Monsanto’s seed monopolies, the destruction of alternatives, the collection of superprofits in the form of royalties, and the increasing vulnerability of monocultures has created a context for debt, suicides and agrarian distress which is driving the farmers’ suicide epidemic in India,” Dr. Shiva conclusively stated.

Learn more:

Going green for a living

Many youngsters have quit their jobs to be part of the Nalla Keerai initiative that now supplies major organic stores in the city. Photo: Karthik Subramanian
The Hindu:Many youngsters have quit their jobs to be part of the Nalla Keerai initiative that now supplies major organic stores in the city

The next time you shop at any of the leading organic stores in Chennai city, you may end up buying vegetables and greens cultivated by a farmer who quit a cushy corporate job to go back to the grassroots, quite literally.

‘Nalla Keerai’ (in Tamil translating to ‘good greens’) is a silent movement in organic farming in and around Paakam village in Thiruninravur, 30 km from the city, that is capturing the imagination of several youngsters, inspiring some of them to quit their jobs and take to farming.

With many of the farmers in the collective in their early 30s, they adopt modern methods of marketing. They have a Facebook page — — that has close to 8,000 followers.

The Nalla Keerai initiative was formed by a local farmer R. Jagannathan, who, inspired by various organic farmers in the State, including the iconic G. Nammalvar, set out to create a model farm to cultivate greens (keerai) in a plot of land measuring 50 cents (half an acre).

He opted for greens because of their relatively short crop cycle, and succeeded in implementing a multi-crop system through which he was able to cultivate 45 different varieties of greens in one cycle. This success story four years ago, has since inspired many youngsters to take to organic farming.

V.M. Parthasarthy quit an IT job that gave him a monthly salary of over Rs. 80,000 to become a full-time organic farmer last July. J. Rajesh Kumar was once an HR consultant for software companies but is now a full-time farmer with Nalla Keerai, and has taken 65 cents of land on lease. S. Kamal Sunder Raj, a regular volunteer at Nalla Keerai is on the verge of quitting his IT job to concentrate on organic farming.

Farm to Consumer

One of the key principles by which Nalla Keerai operates is eliminate the middleman and take the produce directly to the consumers. They supply to some of the biggest organic retail stores in the city, and have also struck deals with three big companies to sell their produce at their office premises directly to their workers.

Explaining the significance of Nalla Keerai, organic food campaigner Ananthoo of Restore in Adyar said the greens found in the inorganic stores had high toxicity levels because of excess spraying of pesticides. “What Nalla Keerai is achieving through their organic farming is noteworthy.”



Research paper presented in BIOCICON 2013 by V.K.Rahane, K.Anju Viswan and E.Pushpalatha

Biopesticides and Toxicology Division, Dept.of Zoology University of Calicut, Malapuram, Kerala, India 

Several plant extracts and essential oils are being used as insecticides to reduce environmental pollution and risk of resistance. A study to evaluate the repellent and adulticide  properties of essential oils of two indigenous plants from Myrtaceae family – Melaleuca leucadendron and Callistemon citrinus against Coleopteran beetle Lasioderma serricone was conducted.


In the study, repellent activity, direct contact activity and indirect toxicity of the two essential oils were evaluated. Significant pest  repellency was demonstrated. Undiluted concentrations of essential oils showed 97.5% repellency after 1 hour of exposure . Both the repellent and adulticidal activity was highly dependent on the oil concentration and exposure time.

In direct contact toxicity test  both  M.leucodendron and C.citrinus essential oils exhibited 100% mortality within 1 hour . In indirect method both the essential oils exhibited 100& mortality in a time period of 6 hours. From these results it is clear that these oils have potential as active insecticides against cigarette beetle.


Lasioderma serricorne, commonly known as the cigarette beetlecigar beetle, or tobacco beetle, is very similar in appearance to the drugstore beetle (Stegobium paniceum) and the common furniture beetle (Anobium punctatum), and all three species belong to the family Anobiidae.


L. serricorne is around 2–3 mm long, and brown in colour. The beetles, which can fly, live 2–6 weeks and do not feed as adults. They can be distinguished from A. punctatum, by the fact that A. punctatum has a thorax which has a pronounced “hump” shape. S. paniceum and L. serricorne have thoraxes which have a much less obtuse looking angle when viewed from the side compared to A. punctatum, and thus could be difficult to tell apart. However S. paniceum has a distinct three-segment “club” at the end of each antenna whereas L. serricorne has uniform filament antennae of eleven segments. L. serricorne also has much weaker punctures on the surface of the wing covers (elytra) than the other two species.

As indicated by its common name, the cigarette beetle is a pest of tobacco, both in the refined cigarette packet presentation and also as stored in hogsheads and bales, but is also a minor pest of oilcakeoilseedscereals, dried fruit, sage, flour, and some animal products.

The female beetle lays around 100 eggs loosely on the commodity. The hatching larvae are the “grow bag” stage of the insect are active and will move around on and bore into the product, feeding as they go. The complete life cycle takes 26 days at 37 °C and 120 days at 20 °CL. serricorne cannot tolerate the cold; adults die within 6 days at 4 °C, and eggs survive 5 days at 0–5 °C.

The beetles carry a symbiotic yeastSymbiotaphrina kochii, that is transmitted to the next generation superficially on the eggs and carried internally in larvae and adults in the mycetome, a specialized organ that is linked to the gut.[1] The yeast cells assist in the digestion of less nutritious foods, supply needed B-vitamins and sterols, and provide resistance to certain toxins.

House fly treatment with viral and botanical agents

House flies are major pests of human and animal health throughout the world and are among the most difficult to control because of resistance to every insecticide that has been developed for their control. A promising microbial agent for fly control is salivary gland hypertrophy virus (MdSGHV) a member of recently described new family of viruses known only from house fly, tsetse flies and narcissus bulb fly. 


Features of infections include greatly damaged salivary glands, a shut down of ovarian development, reduced mating competence and shortened life spans.Infected house flies deposit upto 3 billion virus particles per hour when they feed on solid food.and it is thought that the primary route of infection is by ingestion of virus contaminated food by healthy flies.

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Paradoxically, flies are more susceptible to oral infection when they are newly emerged and not yet ready to feed.Per os transmission rates with older flies rarely exceed 30% regardless of food vehicle (solid or liquid ,proteinacous or sugar – based), viral dose or sex of fly. The refractoriness of older flies can be overcome by treating the fly  with drugs that disturb the pertrophic matrix. Flies also become infected when they are confined on virus treated surfaces or sprayed directly with  virus suspensions. The route of infection in surface treated flies appears to be via spiracles, and the addition of suitable wetting agents improve the efficacy of surface treatments. Botanical biopesticides also have potential for house fly management , especially when combined with low doses of traditional insecticides. 

Article  by C.J.Geden, USDA,ARS,CMAVE, 16600,SW 23rd Dr.Gainesville, FL32608,USA

@ Fourth Biopesticde International Conference (BIOCICON 2013) 

Eco friendly alternative pest products

Reproductive toxicity of botanicals on Insects

Pest Management strategies in agriculture is undergoing a paradigm shift during the recent years as the severity of the environmental pollution caused by high profile chemical pesticides gets revealed globally. As a result of this search and demand for alternative products with ecofriendly status is gaining momentum. 


Botanicals are used as antifeedants, repellents and growth regulators against insect pests. Some of the important botanicals include Azadirachtin, Pyrethrum, Eugenol, Ajugarius etc. Insect growth regulators interfere with metabolism and or reproduction of insects and act as efficient agents in regulating the population of insect pests and offering long term effect.This paper analysed the dimensions and mechanism of the impairment of reproduction by botanicals on insects taking Annona seed extract and mosquito as model system. 

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Acetone soluble fraction of the seed extract of Annona squamosa has been tested on the mosquito Aedes albopictus . The study has revealed multidimension interference. of the reproductive process of the mosquito by the fraction of seed extract involving ovicidal  ovipositional deterrent and chemosterilant activities of the extract. The active fraction of the seed extract was hound to inhibit mitochondrial enzymes. The paper further intends to discus the potentials of botanicals in curtailing the reproduction of insect pests.

Research paper presented by Sumangala Bhat K and Vivek K , Acharya Institute of Technology, Soldavanahalli, Bangalore @ 4th Biopesticide International Conference – BIOCECON 2013