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Where do the pesticides come from? – II

Arjun has more updates from Kishore Asthana on Cola banning and CSE, the lab which did the tests. According to his analysis Colas are some of the safest things to drink in India  compared to eggs, tea, rice, apples, milk, lassi and rabdi.

If someone tells you that if you drink one cup of tea, it will give you as much pesticide as 394 cups of cola, which one do you think would be the safer beverage? And are we focusing on tea? On eggs? On fruit or milk? No. CSE and our Parliament is busy trashing the drink which has the least amount of pesticide amongst all the things we consume. This is reason enough for us to put on our Sanity & Balance cape and jump into the fray.

To the best of our understanding, there are only about 20 laboratories accredited by the National Accreditation Board to undertake tests. The CSE Lab did not have this NAB accreditation three years back and does not appear to have it now. When we personally asked Ms. Sunita Narain about NAB accreditation after the NDTV program yesterday they tried to divert us by saying that they have ISO 9000 accreditation. Even a travel agency can get ISO 9000 accreditation and it does not qualify them as a certified laboratory.

Dr. Khandal, the highly reputed Director of the Sri Ram Laboratories has, in a TV interview categorically said that the equipment used at CSE cannot measure the level of Malathion which CSE claims to have measured with it. He also said that these results had not been re-validated by doing other tests, as was the norm. As such, the tests were not to be taken at face value.

Dr. Khandal then said that CSE have mentioned that they have used U.S. EPA protocols to test Colas. He pointed out that EPA has no protocols for Colas. They only have a protocol to test water. He said that if CSE has used this protocol to measure the pesticides in Colas then it is erronious, as the matrix of the test sample changes with the addition of the other ingredients and the protocol for testing water cannot be used for testing Colas

In an NDTV program yesterday, Ms. Narain said that the sample size of foreign Colas tested by CSE was just 2 bottles. As the scientists on the panel pointed out, on this basis she is not really qualified to make any comments at all about pesticides in foreign Colas vis a vis Indian Colas. Any good High School science student can tell you that the sample of two bottles is not a meaningful sample size, but CSE has no hesitation in announcing their comparison based on an analysis of a mere two bottles. [Cola Con]

See Also: Where do the pesticides come from?

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Where do the pesticides come from?

Lab tests done by The Centre for Science and Environment in India have found large amounts of pesticides in various soft drinks.

The 2006 CSE study tests 57 samples of 11 soft drink brands, from 25 different manufacturing plants of Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, spread over 12 states. The study finds pesticide residues in all samples; it finds a cocktail of 3-5 different pesticides in all samples

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Why are we scared of Wal-Mart?

The Government policies for opening retail stores in India are restrictive and only single-brand retail stores are currently allowed. Due to this, companies like Wal-Mart, Carrefour and Tesco have been trying to get into partnerships with Indian companies to tap into the market. Most of India’s retail sector is family run and politicians fear that a Wal-Mart could shut down these Mom & Pop stores.

These politicians under estimate the trading skills of Indians and believe that we are not capable of dealing with home grown competition. Two months back Wal-Mart got out of South Korea and this week out of Germany. The company, it seems was not able to generate profits after operating 85 stores for eight years in Germany

German shoppers are accustomed to buying merchandise strictly based on price, German retail consultants say. They are willing to buy laundry detergent at one store and then go to another to get a better price on paper towels. That behavior is called “basket splitting.” It is the antithesis of what American shoppers like: one-stop shopping. A big plank of Wal-Mart’s strategy in the U.S. and elsewhere is getting shoppers to turn to it for an increasingly wide array of goods.[With Profits Elusive, Wal-Mart to Exit Germany (subscription reqd.)]

When President Bush visited India, Charlie Rose had a series of interviews with business leaders and one point Ratan Tata made was that Indians are similarly price and value conscious. They could give Wal-Mart a run for their money.

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Blame it on Globalization – II

Jo, has a new episode of his Malayalam podcast M-POD. This time it is an interview with Dr. C. R Rajagopal who teaches Malayalam at Sree Kerala Varma College, Thrissur. He is also the director of Centre for Indigenous Knowledge, a group working on documenting traditional knowledge.

To explain the value of traditional knowledge, he sang a a very nice folk song about various types of seeds and when to farm them. This song was from a book Krishi Geetha (Krishi = Farming) written in the 17th century and was taught in schools. Not anymore.

As people worked with nature, they observed many facts about weather, plants, animals and such information was captured in stories, legends, songs, and sayings. They also had art forms which captured various rituals. This knowledge is getting lost and now there are about 60 groups in Kerala which sing these songs and transmit the knowledge from the older generation to the younger. There are audio albums, photo albums and books available which capture these words of wisdom. A very commendable effort indeed.

If you are a Malayalee, then the words, globalization and western culture has to be used in a negative connotation due to how the Malayali DNA is structured. This word appears in this interview also for no reason. In his introduction Jo mentions that Dr. Rajagopal is going to tell us about knowledge which is getting lost due to the big influence of western culture in our lives. Then Dr. Rajagopal utters the word globalization in an unusual situation.

He said that collecting this information is required due to the globalized situation we are in. According to him, this information can also be used for fight globalization which according to him is trying to grab the intellectual property of local people. He has contempt for the current culture (calls it Azha Kuzhamban culture) and wishes that people would pay more attention to this knowledge.

Globalization has definitely introduced problems and the patent fights for Basmati and Neem are good examples. There is no doubt that local knowledge is getting lost, but it would happen even if the forces of globalization were not present.

Long time back itself, farmers stopped cultivating land and started selling it off for real estate due to the increased labor costs. Now due to the excellent living conditions in Kerala bought about by the globalization of labor, no one wants to work for a living. Fruits and vegetables come from Tamil Nadu and when there is a lorry strike, the prices of everything goes up. When you are not farming anymore, what is the need of songs which talk about various seeds?

Second, knowledge is being lost as people from villages move to towns. We are not talking of Dubai here, but towns in Kerala. Half of the knowledge of grandmothers get lost when mothers live far away from them. When this knowledge is transmitted by the mother to her offspring, some more knowledge is lost. Even if you exclude globalization, information is just lost as the current generation does not need it. This is happening in each family living in Kerala itself.

Instead of blaming everything on globalization, such people should take advantage of the forces of globalization to spread the knowledge. Already they are doing it by collaborating with universities and organizations outside India, creating websites and multimedia and by producing such podcasts. What is required is an attitude change to look at the positive power that globalization can provide.

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Indians in Davos

Goh Chok Tong, Former Prime Minister of Singapore was in India recently and gave a speech asking India to accelerate the pace of reforms.

Arguing that the old mindset opposed to competition on the plea of foreign economic colonisation and the theory of protectionism would only breed complacency and inefficiency. He said “competition drives economic growth; you lose some but you win more,” and urged the Indian government to remove impediments to healthy competition.[Indian atma biswas and the positive sum economics of trade]

Looks like this message is being taken seriously. “India Everywhere”. This is the campaign that Indians are unleashing in Davos for the World Economic Forum on Jan 25.

“India: the world’s fastest-growing free-market democracy,” proclaims one sign. Others will extol India’s growing business prowess (it now boasts 91 companies with revenues of $1 billion-plus), its $500 billion stock market capitalization, and its vast and youthful consumer market.

Waiting for visitors at their hotel rooms will be gifts from India — a pashmina shawl, an Apple (AAPL) iPod loaded with Indian pop and classical music, a piece of traditional art, some ayurvedic oils — along with a CD packed with all sorts of economic information about the country.[Davos Days, Bollywood Nights]

Finally someone got the clue that being understated and unspoken is not the way to do business. Among the list of people in the delegation are some odd balls like Amartya Sen and Shabana Azmi. The article also mentions that the ruler of Kerala will also be present and Kerala is a magnet for foreign investment.

Ignoring all that, it is important that India perform the right song and dance routine where it matters and display its cultural power along with the economic might. As the Globalization Institute notes

The figures tell a story. Economic growth is expected to be 8% in 2006, at a time when Japan would consider 1% a major success. There are now 91 businesses in India with turnover in excess of $1 billion, stock market capitalisation is in the $500 billion range, and there are reportedly over 200 million people learning English in India.

It’s worth contrasting this image with the pessimistic predictions of the late 1960s and early 1970s. India was headed for “inevitable” mass famine. Its population would drop as disease and chronic malnutrition raised the death rate. Corruption was seen as “endemic” and the combination of bureaucracy, protectionism, and a willingness to support the pirating of foreign trade marks were major obstacles to inward investment.[India flaunts it at Davos]

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