India is taking baby steps towards making the food we eat safe. On July 20, the Centre imposed a ban on the manufacture, sale and distribution of Colistin for food-producing animals and poultry. Colistin is an antibiotic, currently being used as the ‘last resort’ for treatment of patients infected by drug-resistant bacteria.
However, the poultry industry in India has been misusing the antibiotic as a growth promoter. An advisory note issued by the government in 2014 confirmed that tests had detected the presence of following antibiotics in tissues of poultry sold in the market: Oxytetracycline, Doxycycline, Ciprofloxacin and Neomycin. The WHO has said that the practice of using antibiotics to fatten up animals is the major cause for growing antibiotic resistance across the world and must be banned. The health ministry has also recently confirmed that the antibiotic resistance witnessed in the country is probably due to unwanted use of Colistin by the poultry industry. If the efficacy of Colistin, the ‘last resort’, is compromised, India will become vulnerable to serious threats of epidemic outbreaks.
Poultry and meat come under just one part of the problem that India has fixed. Earlier, in 2018, the government took a step in the right direction by banning the use of 18 pesticides in the country. While 12 were banned with immediate effect, six will be phased out completely by 2020. The ban is not just on the usage, but also on manufacture and import. Collectively, these measures have taken a big chunk of toxins off our plate. However, activists say there is a lot more distance to cover. Pesticide poisoning has been a real threat for India since the green revolution.
According to a submission made by activist Kavitha Kuruganti in the Supreme Court, India was using a whopping 104 pesticides that are banned or severely restricted in other nations. There are many more pesticides, residues of which we probably consume, which could be dangerous for our health. If the government continues to act on this front, while also promoting organic farming, safe food will no longer be a luxury.