The pesticide residue controversy raked by an NGO in Delhi and the consequent national outcry mostly orchestrated in the media is still fresh in the memory of many in India. Whether the alarms raised was genuine or based on scanty and inappropriate data used for justifying the dangers is still not clear though a recent report questioned the veracity and reliability of the endosulfan values in soft drinks published by one of the investigators from IIT. Imagine the damages caused by such fudged results on the industry both economic and brand credibility and how such irresponsible acts get condoned in a liberal country like India. There was a time when consumer was bombarded with insinuations that practically every food in India was unsafe because of pesticide residues including breast milk!
Now comes another report from Karnataka about high lead content in natural resources like water that gets transferred to food chain easily. It was claimed that eating vegetables purchased in Bangalore markets would sap the health because of high lead content in them. In a 'study' conducted by a few B.Sc students, it was reported that Coriander leaves collected from the local markets had lead values from 2.62 to 24.29 ppm while safe limit is only 2.5 ppm. What is intriguing is that the results expressed were on dry weight basis and if they are factored into fresh leaves probably the values might be between 0.35 to 3.3 ppm. Considering that coriander leaves are consumed in very small quantity when ever it is included in the food, is there a justification in raising a hue and cry, that too in a news paper, with no peer review system to validate the results and always looking for sensationalism for catching the attention of the readers? Of course the findings cannot be dismissed lightly and warrant further critical appraisal.
Another plant material 'studied' was water hyacinth from a few lakes near Bangalore in which the 'researchers' found lead contents in the range of 4.95 to 102.45 ppm. They drew prompt 'conclusion' that the milk distributed in the City also must be high in lead without verifying the real situation. It is sad that half baked results are published by responsible news papers like Deccan Herald and it is equally deplorable for the authors of this study to splash it in the paper raising alarms all around. A proper way for any scientific study to be aired is through peer reviewed scientific journals to command respect, sanctity and credibility. The craze and cravings for publicity and attention by the scientific community reflect a dangerous trend that must be curbed by all means and at any cost in the interest of the country.