While the quality of fruits and vegetables and amount of pesticides they contain is always a contentious issue, the Food Quality Testing Laboratory in Navsari Agricultural University (NAU) campus is lying practically idle.
Despite being one of the most modern labs in Gujarat, it is not getting samples from farmers and cultivators. Only 45 samples have been tested in the past two years! Though developed with a motive of monitoring quality of crops, the lab is limited to testing samples sent by research students and NAU. Students require results of certain tests only. A few export houses do come to test their soil and produce, but the numbers are low.
The lab was developed in 2009 at the cost of Rs5 core. The sole lab in the entire south Gujarat region is divided into four sections - pesticide residues, heavy metals, biochemistry and microbiology. The lab studies samples to determine pesticide residues, elemental analysis and other chemical and microbial contaminants in crops. It also tests water, moisture and mineral content in the soil.
“We urge farmers to test their produce but they are not interested in doing so,” said KG Patel, head of the lab. According to him, there is no market for high-quality fruits and vegetables which discourages farmers from testing the quality of their produce. Government agencies responsible for monitoring food quality are also inactive.