Pesticide misuse is a common problem in agriculture production in Southeast Asia as unsafe amounts of pesticide residues on vegetables are a growing concern for consumers. Improper mixing, spraying and storing of pesticides on farms is also dangerous to farmers and their families.
Over time, the incorrect use and use of obsolete products can also lead to environmental consequences like poor soil health, surface and groundwater pollution. These may even lead to the demise of beneficial insects, birds and aquatic animals.
The World Vegetable Center’s research found that the use of agricultural pesticides in Southeast Asia has skyrocketed during the last 20 years. The use of pesticides in Thailand and Vietnam has grown seven to ten percent annually over the last ten years. Nearly 60 percent of vegetable farmers in Laos and 73 percent in Cambodia used more pesticides than what is economically optimal.
To move Southeast Asia towards a “non-toxic” region, governments are initiating numerous programs to reduce risks from chemicals to human health and the environment.
1. Broaden knowledge and awareness
The World Vegetable Center’s research showed that most farmers are aware of the problem of pesticides but often have limited knowledge of alternatives or feel they have no choice. This is where large-scale interventions from government and trade associations are important to reduce Southeast Asia’s challenges with pesticides.
2. Better access to biopesticides
Many markets in this region need better availability of and access to biocontrol products such as biopesticides. This requires research as well as regulatory reform and perhaps incentives like subsidies. Governments and local authorities must increase monitoring, step up enforcement and restrict access to the most problematic pesticides and penalize traders who sell unsafe vegetables.
3. Dedicated product distribution
Another approach is for vegetable markets to have distinct channels for safe vegetables so that consumers have a choice and farmers can receive a price premium for quality products.
4. Improve MRL monitoring
Restricting access to the most problematic pesticides and fining traders who sell unsafe vegetables becomes key to ensure the safety of consumers. Many governments have enforced strict regulations on pesticide residues by looking at the maximum residue level (MRL), which is the highest amount of individual pesticide residue that is permitted to be present in or on food or animal feed.
To effectively implement the approaches, governments must strengthen their capacity for monitoring and enforcement. Before a pesticide can be used on a food crop, a risk assessment must be performed by national authorities to determine whether it can be used without posing an unreasonable risk to human health.
Multiresidue pesticide residues are commonly analyzed by the following methods: gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry (GC-MS, GC-MS/MS) and liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS).
The GC-MS method is used especially for volatile compounds in complex samples and is a method of choice for less polar pesticides. Meanwhile, the LC-MS/MS method is more suitable for more polar pesticides as well as with pesticide metabolites, which are often more polar and less volatile than pesticide itself. Compounds which are thermolabile, not volatile, and have not been derivatized can be separated by LC-MS/MS.
At DKSH, we provide powerful workflow solutions and expertise for ever-evolving pesticide residues analysis. We also assist businesses with regulatory compliance and food safety, food quality as well as research and testing laboratories.
Reach out to me to learn more about our solutions and how your business can benefit from better results testing and sample analysis.
Marco Farina joined DKSH in February 2016 as General Manager, Business Line Scientific Instrumentation, Business Unit Technology. He oversees global business development and has spent the last ten years developing and growing business in different emerging markets in Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia. He now lives in Bangkok with his wife and two kids.