THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Kerala Agriculture University, which has been doing an excellent job in testing pesticide levels in fruits and vegetables, is low-key.
Officials at Pesticide Residue Research and Analytical Laboratory (PRRAL) at College of Agriculture, Vellayani, have been walking away with the credit though it was the agriculture department that had spent Rs 1.75 crore last five years on the lab's upkeep.
It was in early 2013 the department along with KAU which decided to have samples of vegetables, fruits, spices and condiments checked for pesticide residue after a surge in import of these from neighbouring states.
With sixth year running of the scheme under ‘Production and Marketing of Safe to Eat Vegetables’, so far the department had granted Rs 1.75 crore towards the expenses.
The PRAAL lab is also facing the issue of undertaking more tests than the equipment can handle. For each sample tested, it costs Rs 4500.
At one of the recent daylong meetings chaired by the agriculture minister at Kumarakom, sources said, his officials had expressed their displeasure in not getting the PRAAL lab report.
“Earlier the KAU’s public relations officer would release it to the media which has since not gone down well with the officials who demanded procedural changes. It was just before the Onam season the last time the residue lab report was published. The annual report of 2017 is still pending,” a government official told DC.
Ever since the media highlighted these reports, people have been conscious about what they consume. It led them to think of growing their own set of fruits and vegetables for their consumption.
"Agriculture department and KAU are two entities, but they have to work together," said a former KAU official.
Agriculture minister V.S. Sunil Kumar clarified that his department officials were keen to see the PRAAL report before going to the media.
“Until now the department officials did not have any role in preparing the PRAAL lab report except their initial investment of Rs 1.75 crore. Hereafter they will come up with remedial measures at the field level to reduce the pesticide level," he told DC.