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Mon. Aug 8th, 2022
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LONDON: A new report claims that a UK-India free trade deal could lead to “toxic pesticides” used in growing Indian food harming UK consumers and to Indian farmers undercutting British farmers, which would threaten the future of UK agriculture.
The report, “Toxic Trade: How a trade deal with India threatens UK pesticide standards and farming”, claims that India has a strong economic interest in pressuring the UK government to weaken domestic pesticide standards in order to secure access to the UK market for India’s food exports.
“When a pesticide is banned for use in the UK, it is theoretically not allowed to appear in food, thereby restricting imports. As a result, Indian agribusiness would have much to gain if the UK agreed to weaken its approach by approving new harmful pesticides or overturning existing bans,” the report states.
The UK and India are in the midst of negotiating a comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA), which they aim to conclude by Diwali.
“UK imports of Indian agri-food are currently fairly low, leaving potential for a major increase under new trading arrangements. Indian negotiators are likely to focus on removing non-tariff barriers, which would almost certainly include pressure on the UK to facilitate Indian exports by allowing larger amounts of more toxic pesticides in food. If the UK government bows to demands from Indian negotiators then the increased risk to the health of UK consumers could be significant,” the report states. It also claims that Indian farmers would “have a competitive advantage over UK producers” as they can operate more cheaply using “harmful pesticides that are banned in the UK”.
India allows larger amounts of highly hazardous pesticides to appear in food than the UK does, with apples and grapes both permitted to contain 200 times the amount of the insecticide malathion than their UK equivalents, the report says.
A UK government spokesperson said: “We have strict statutory limits for pesticide residue levels on imported food and a robust programme of monitoring. An FTA with India won’t change this — products which don’t meet our requirements won’t be permitted to enter the UK market. We will not expose UK farmers to unfair competition or compromise our high standards.”
If UK negotiators incentivise an increase in Indian agri-food exports, then UK diets are likely to contribute to further increases in pesticide-related harms in India, the report, by Brighton-based charity Pesticide Action Network (PAN) UK, Sustain and Dr Emily Lydgate, adds.

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