Potential Hazards of Pesticides, Fertilizers in Farm Food
Potential hazards to consumers from contamination of food with pesticide
residues, is currently a major public concern the world over. While pesticides
and chemical fertilizers in agriculture are a necessity to control the pests and
diseases and enhance crop yield, however their often-unrestrained use largely
due to inadequate monitoring by the relevant authorities, is posing a grave risk
to consumers’ health and the environment.
The Health Ministry’s investigations have revealed that the amount of pesticide
residues and heavy metals in several agriculture crops including onions,
potatoes, and cucumbers, produce which are consumed on a daily basis by most
Iranians, have more than the toxicologically-tolerable limits, the Persian
language weekly ‘Salamat’ reported.
Explaining the different fraudulent practices in agriculture, Dr. Kambiz
Bazargan, head of Soil and Water Research Institute (SWRI) affiliated to the
Agriculture Ministry said, “Some farmers use unauthorized pesticides or
fertilizers that may contain heavy metals including lead and cadmium.”
“Another practice is the extensive use of fertilizers; for instance, a farmer may
use large amounts of nitrogen fertilizer to increase the crop yield which can
result in nitrogen accumulation in crops and be harmful to consumers.”
Nitrates and nitrites are known to cause several health complications, vitamin A
deficiency, and cancers. They can also decrease oxygen carrying capacity of the
Bazargan said there are two ways to prevent such farm practices that
contaminate food produce. Food grains are of particular importance in this
regard because they are consumed as major elements of national diets.
“As the first step, we should ensure supply of high-quality pesticides and
fertilizers to farmers. Secondly, we need to monitor the pattern of fertilizer and
pesticide use by agriculturists.”
Stricter controls have been imposed on the use of pesticides in the past two
years by the government.
Mandatory Registration at SWRI
In August 2014 the agriculture minister enacted a law by which all suppliers of
pesticides and fertilizers in the country should be registered at the SWRI. “This
ensures we have more authority to control and monitor the quality of farm
produce. In case of any violation, the registration can be cancelled.”
So far, the institute has conducted lab tests on 5,000 brands of chemical
fertilizers, of which 4,200 brands were approved. “Nearly 800 brands were
labeled unsafe and unhealthy as they were found to be carcinogenic (or cancer-causing), neurotoxic (causing damage to the brain), or teratogenic (causing fetal harm), he said adding, “We continuously inspect fertilizer products, and
violators are dealt with according to the law.”
Along with implementation of the measures, SWRI holds training workshops for
farmers with the aim to raise awareness of the proper use of fertilizers and
In response to a query on the percentage of domestically-produced fertilizers in
the market, he said all the nitrogen fertilizers are locally produced but
potassium and phosphorus fertilizers are imported.
Violations in fertilizers and pesticides use are not usually detected or
recognized by any distinguishable smell, taste or visual defect in crops, and
therefore people are not able to identify the potential risks to health by
Children may be susceptible to adverse neurological, developmental and other
effects from pesticide exposures in food products. Vulnerable populations
including pregnant women also face particular risk from such exposure.
The annual per capita consumption of pesticides through food products in Iran
is around 400 grams per year as against 70 grams in European countries and 80
grams in the US, according to the head of Iranian Genetics Society.
Mahmoud Tavallaei told IRNA that biotechnology can help reduce the amount
of pesticides used in the agriculture sector.
Genetically modified organisms can be defined as plants, animals or
microorganisms in which the DNA has been altered in a way that does not occur
naturally. The technology is often called modern biotechnology or genetic