KUALA LUMPUR, April 9, 2015:
An environmental non-government organisation has cautioned that Malaysians may be unwittingly consuming pesticide-laden vegetables.
However, the allegation has been rubbished by a farmer’s association.
Regional Environmental Awareness of Cameron Highlands (Reach) Ramakrishnan Ramasamy said word had been going around in Cameron Highlands that vegetables that had failed to comply with Singapore’s strict food safety standards were being sold in Malaysian markets instead.
Singapore imports nearly 95% of its fresh fruits and vegetables from all over the world, including Malaysia.
The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) has stringent checks to ensure imported and locally-produced fresh fruits and vegetables are safe and wholesome for consumption.
Any imported consignment of vegetables found to contain prohibited pesticide residue, or levels of pesticide residues or harmful chemicals exceeding the permitted levels, will be rejected.
Ramakrishnan, a well-known and vocal environmentalist in Cameron Highlands, said this practice was common knowledge among farmers in the region.
Beyond that, it is kept hushed in order not to scare away consumers from getting affordable vegetables.
“The Agriculture and Health Department used to conduct checks on vegetables, even if they are meant for local consumption, but I am not sure if such checks are still in place.
“The government should conduct checks consistently, regardless of whether the vegetables are meant for export or local consumption.
“There is also an urgent need for a pesticides safety course for farmers to enhance their knowledge on the applications and safety of pesticides used in their farms,” he told The Rakyat Post.
Local farmer Ng Tien Khuan said if consumers want to reduce their intake of pesticides, they can choose organic produce to minimise the risk of poisoning.
Cameron Highlands Vegetable Growers Association secretary Chay Ee Mong rubbished such allegations.
He pointed out that any failed consignment would be detained and destroyed by the Singaporean authorities and enforcement action taken against the importers concerned.
“While we cannot possibly monitor the use of pesticides among all farmers, we are not people without conscience.
“We always want to make farming far more productive, but not at the cost of public health.”
He also dismissed long-standing “rumours” that Cameron Highlands farmers do not eat the vegetables that they produce for sale, because the crops are too laden with pesticides.
A study published in the journal Human Reproduction in Boston, United States, revealed that men who consumed more of pesticide-heavy types of fruits and vegetables had a lower sperm count and a lower percentage of normally-shaped sperm than those who consumed fewer of those types.