A study undertaken by environmental NGO Greenpeace over a year has allegedly found the presence of harmful pesticide residues including toxic dichlorodiphenyl trichloroethane (DDT) in tea sold by leading brands across India.
"We had carried out a study across many cities in India over the past one year to check the quality of tea leaves sold in cities. Our study has revealed the presence of residues of chemical pesticides in a majority of brands," Neha Sehgal, senior campaigner of Greenpeace told reporters in Mumbai.
She claimed that out of 49 samples tested by the non-profit organisation, around 34 (94%) contained residues of at least one pesticide and 29 (59%) of the samples contained a cocktail of more than 10 different pesticides in them.
Also 29 (59%) of the samples contained residues of of at least one pesticide above the maximum residue limits set by the European Union (EU).
"We had, for this study collected samples from different retailers from cities like Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore and Mumbai over a period from June 2013 to May 2014," she said.
Sehgal said there was a presence of DDT (a synthetic organic compound used as a pesticide) in 67% of the tea samples.
"Use of DDT has been banned in India since 1989.
Monocrotophos, termed as hazardous by the WHO was found in 27 samples. Tebufenpyrad, a pesticide not registered in India, and thus illegal was found in one sample. It can be very toxic for the liver," she said.
Sehgal urged tea companies to move the tea sector away from the "pesticide treadmill" and asked them to adopt an ecological agriculture farming approach.
"The tea companies need to support adoption of ecological agriculture approaches like Non Pesticidal Management for the safety of consumers," she said.
Meanwhile, the Tea Board of India has trashed the report of Greenpeace and said that tea leaves are "totally safe" and are sold only after going through stringent quality tests.
"The Tea Board of India would like to dispel any misconceptions about Indian tea in the eyes of consumers at large," it said in a release issued in Mumbai on Tuesday.
The Indian tea industry led by the Tea Board of India has been constantly taking steps to make tea cultivation even more sustainable and reduce reliance on synthetic plant protection products to ensure that Indian tea continues to meet the high standards consumers expect," it added.