Our National Drink

Tea was first discovered in China and since then, it has travelled through the world. In the beginning, tea plants were quite limited and only royalty and the rich drank tea, not only for its medicinal qualities but also for its taste.

Today, tea is one of the most popular beverages in India and is considered to be one of the healthiest drinks available in the market. But in the current era of industrial agriculture, growing tea is heavily dependent upon the use of chemical pesticides.

Thanks to you, Wagh Bakri rises to #CleanChai

Dear chai freaks and fiends,

If you are an Indian, and a chai freak, you’ll be thrilled to know that Wagh Bakri, the third largest tea marketing company in India has finally risen to #cleanchai.

How did this happen? A few meetings, exchanges of emails and phone calls and 40,000 of you tea lovers made it happen. Following the launch of the report “Tea Brewing – Pesticides in Tea Samples from India” earlier on in August, and all of you tea lovers wrote to your favourite brands asking them to clean chai, your favourite drink, India’s favourite drink.

Wagh Bakri heeded to its consumers, and did the right thing. They called a few of us from Greenpeace to talk about what is the best way to work towards achieving this. This resulted in Greenpeace, which represented your voice, in going down to their office at Ahmedabad last week, and discussing their plans. It didn’t take long to realise that their heart was in the right place, and they were willing to take all the necessary steps to work towards achieving this.

A few days later, we got an email confirming this. That’s the commitment you’ve earned from the company.

So what does this mean? The company has committed to invest in scientific research pilots (trial plots), which will explore ways in which to move away from the dependence on the use of pesticides in tea cultivation. The idea is not to drop some nasties, but pesticides from tea cultivation altogether.

While the company does not own tea plantations itself, it will identify and work with tea growers to do this research. And they have plans to work with independent scientists to ensure it is scientific and credible, and ultimately can be replicated on a large scale. By the end of this research, both the company and the industry will gain from this research so that the industry is able to chart out a path to eliminate the use of pesticides in tea.

So what next? Let’s take a pause and thank Wagh Bakri for doing the right thing.

We are of course placing trust that the company will walk the talk and keep true to its commitment. As one of the largest tea marketing companies in country, and one of the bigger exporters, this sends cues to a number of tea companies who need to now do their bit. Twinings, Goodricke, Golden Tips and Kho Cha, hope you are listening.

Signing off for now,

Tea fiend,

P.S. After Unilever and Girnar, Wagh Bakri is the third to take this progressive step.

P.P.S. In the meanwhile, we met with Tata Global Beverages Limited, and they sat across the table and promised us to do what it takes to #CleanChai. Tata, the whole nation is counting on you.

Companies React

Four of the leading tea companies, Tata, Unilever, Wagh Bakri & Girnar take the first step towards pesticide-free tea.

1) Unilever
2) Girnar
3) Wagh Bakri
4) Tata

Trouble Brewing in Tea

An investigation carried out by Greenpeace India has found residues of hazardous chemical pesticides in a majority of samples of the main brands of packaged tea produced and consumed in India. Over half of the samples contained pesticides that are ‘unapproved’ for use in tea cultivation or which were present in excess of recommended limits.

download pdf

Crisis with Agriculture

At present, one of the most debated issues globally is the need to ensure food-security and eradicate hunger. But the current model of agriculture which has increased our dependency on chemical pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and genetically engineered crops, has not managed to do that. Neither has it improved livelihoods of small and marginal farmers.

Today, Indian agriculture is facing a grave crisis. The severity of this crisis can be gauged by the current state of Indian farmers.

Case in point: The Green Revolution. We, as a country, should have learnt from Green Revolution, which replaced sound ecological cultivation practices and diverse local crops with a few high yielding varieties, dependent on chemicals, which has been a huge failure. Now, more than ever, we are faced with hunger, that we are trying to get rid of by adopting destructive and polluting agricultural practices that only benefit large corporates. Once again, instead of treating the problem, we are treating the symptom.

Truth About Pesticides

Pesticides are substances meant for attracting, seducing, destroying, or mitigating any pest. Sadly, that isn’t all they do. Studies have shown that chemical pesticides linger in the atmosphere, the ground and in our waterways long after they have been used in a given area. Furthermore, a large amount of sprayed insecticides and herbicides reach areas other than their target areas, because they are sprayed or spread across entire agricultural fields. Runoff can carry pesticides into aquatic environments while wind can carry them to other fields and human settlements, potentially affecting other species.

Pesticides have also been linked to a multitude of diseases and in some extreme cases, remnants of pesticides have also been found in the bloodstream of sufferers of certain types of cancer.

Crisis with Tea

The recent results of our investigation reveal a cocktail of pesticide residue in tea. From a total of 49 branded and packaged teas sampled, a whopping 59% of them contain a cocktail of more than 10 different pesticides, including one sample, which contained residues of 20 different pesticides.

Moreover, these results expose use of banned, illegal and unapproved pesticides. Amongst them are toxic pesticides including DDT, Endosulfan and Monocrotophos.

68% of the 34 pesticides detected in this study are currently not even registered for use on tea by the Central Insecticides Board and Registration Committee (CIBRC). In fact, the levels of many of the pesticides detected exceed the EU-MRL, raising serious questions about the suitability of these tea products for export to European and other markets.

This is yet another symptom of a sick industrial agriculture system which fails to deliver healthy food to people. Indian tea is a victim of agriculture’s pesticide addiction. Click here to read the full report

Cocktail Of Pesticides In Tea

Over the years, a number of studies have used experimental methods to show that a cocktail of pesticides can disrupt gene expression in some organisms. In addition, there is some emerging evidence that pesticide exposure may be associated with reproductive abnormalities, immune suppression, cancer and hormone disruption in humans, presumably as a result of changes in basic metabolic function.

The tea samples tested for this investigation cover eight of the top 11 companies that dominate the branded tea market in India. These include well-known international and national brands such as Hindustan Unilever Limited, Tata Global Beverages Limited, Wagh Bakri Tea, Goodricke Tea, Twinings, Golden Tips, Kho-Cha and Girnar.

External Links On Pesticides
Links On Pesticides New/Recent Studies/Reports

New Report demands that government act against main culprit in Bihar MDM tragedy

(Related news: On 1st anniversary of Bihar midday meal tragedy, new report warns of future mishaps

EFSA assesses potential link between two neonicotinoids and developmental neurotoxicity

(Related news:

Clear differences between organic and non-organic food, study finds

Solutions/Way Forward Videos/Documentaries

Videos/Documentaries Satyamev Jayate - Toxic Food - Poison On Our Plate?

A Pestering Journey (2010) – Punjab & Kasaragod

Mere Desh Ki Dharti (2006, 60 mts, on Punjab & Pesticides)

Slow Poisoning of India (2004)

Part 1 :

Part 2 :

Part 3 :

Punjab Vs. Pesticides

Toxic Tears (Trailer) – about Punjab & Green Revolution

Highway to Hell (2005) – on pesticides situation & alternatives

End of The Road For Endosulfan

Part 1 :

Part 2 :

Part 3 :

God’s Own Country (trailer) – on endosulfan impacts

Related links

On CMSA programme (large scale non-pesticidal management) in Andhra Pradesh:

World Bank film, 2010 - 8.44 mts

Rural Development Department, Andhra Pradesh, 2008 – 5.14 mts

Kranthi Patham or Revolutionary Path, CSA, 2008 – 22.19 mts

The Future of Food

Case Studies

Click below to read about people whose lives have been directly affected by rampant use of pesticides in agriculture.

1. The Long Wait

2. A Paradise for the dying

3. How it all began