India Tea Board Delays Plant Protection Code Deadline

KOLKATA, India – Greenpeace India is pressing tea growers to phase out the use of chemical pesticides, arguing for a “holistic, ecosystem” instead of the Tea Board of India’s Plant Protection Code.

Greenpeace India Pesticide Spraying at Tata Global Beverage Periakanal Estate

Greenpeace India Pesticide Spraying at Tata Global Beverage Periakanal Estate

Last week Neha Saigal, senior campaigner, Greenpeace India, called the Tea Board guidelines “inadequate.”

She told The Hindu Business Line that a holistic approach “has been publicly supported by (Hindustan Unilever) HUL and Girnar tea.” She called for the establishment of a no-pesticide pilot program in agro-ecological zones. Similar programs have been implemented for tea gardens in Darjeeling and in the Nilgiris mountains of Tamil Nadu.

Last month Greenpeace released the report Trouble Brewing based on laboratory results showing residue from banned and unapproved pesticides on the leaves of several popular teas. A total of 34 pesticides were found in 46 of the 49 samples of packaged tea purchased randomly at several stores.

“The results indicate that the cultivation of tea in India continues to depend on a large number of chemicals with proven adverse effects on the environment and human health. Companies purchasing and selling tea in India and other key stakeholders in the industry need to act urgently to ensure the protection of the environment and of human health,” according to the report.

Several brands offered assurances their tea is safe. HUL said that it intends to phase out pesticides.

Defenders of the Tea Board program say a ban on certain kinds of chemical pesticides “is going to cause much inconvenience” to small growers who have no knowledge of ecological alternatives in pest management.

Meanwhile, the Tea Board announced this week it will delay enforcement of the PPC until January 2015. The code was developed in March 2014 and would have been enforced beginning this month. Under the PPC guidelines growers must notify sellers that only approved chemicals have been used in the cultivation of tea. Residues of pesticides such as DDT (found in 60% of samples) and neonicotinoid insecticides discovered in 78% of the Greenpeace samples are strictly forbidden.

G. Boriah, adviser to the Tea Board, told the Calcutta Telegraph: “The industry felt it needed time. The representatives said they had been buying leaf from small growers and have no control over some of their practices. Hence, awareness programs were required. We will not dilute the code.”

The Tea Board has criticized Greenpeace and posted a rebuttal with additional information on its PPC and TrusTea programs on its website: www.teaboard.gov.in

Source: The Hindu Business Line, Tea Board of India, Greenpeace

Related story: India Tea Board Responds to Greenpeace Report