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A recent 2014 Greenpeace report revealed the presence of a variety of pesticides found in teas grown and sold in India. (1) These teas are also exported around the world by major tea companies. WHO (World Health Organization) has classified a large percentage of these pesticides as moderately or highly hazardous, and some levels being above the recommended safe limits.
This is very concerning considering India supplies over 11% of the world's tea exports to countries including US, UK, Germany and Russia. In all of the tea samples taken, 34 different pesticides were found, with 23 of them being unregistered for use in tea cultivation in India. Nearly all samples contained at least one pesticide, and greater than half contained more than 10 different pesticides. Alarmingly, the long banned DDT was also detected in some samples.
These findings were similar to Greenpeace investigations in 2012 that found high levels of pesticides in Chinese tea. China is the largest producer of tea in the world and the biggest user of pesticides. In 18 samples taken from 9 popular Chinese tea brands, 29 different pesticides were detected. All of them were found to have at least 3 different types of pesticides; 12 of them had traces of banned pesticides that have been associated with infertility and birth defects, and; six of the samples contained more than 10 different kinds of pesticides. (2)
Excessive pesticide use greatly damages the tea plantation environment with a large percentage of toxic pesticides ending-up polluting the air, soil and water. The health of tea workers is also put at risk as they are coming in contact with these dangerous chemicals on a regular basis. And, ultimately of course, it is you, the tea consumer, who unwittingly ingests traces of damaging chemicals in your daily cup which can have a host of negative health impacts.
Choosing organic tea is much better for your health, for the safety of tea plantation workers, and for the environment. Organic farmers work in harmony with nature, using environmentally friendly, chemical-free techniques to grow and process their teas. Instead of using harmful chemicals, organic farmers use natural and traditional methods of weed and pest control, which help preserve the quality of the soil and nearby waterways, and surrounding ecosystem, to produce clean, healthy, chemical-free tea.
When purchasing organic tea, accept nothing less than products clearly and substantively labeled ‘certified organic’. These will have the appropriate logo (e.g., certified organic ‘bud’) to ensure the organic integrity of your tea. ACO is the most well respected, strict and most thorough food regulatory program here in Australia and internationally and Bodhi conforms to their rigorous standards and policies.
If more people choose to buy organic tea more farmers will be encouraged to grow it, which means less toxic chemicals on and in our tea and less harm to the earth.
(1) GreenPeace. Trouble brewing, pesticide residues in tea samples from India. 2014.
(2) GreenPeace. Pesticides: Hidden Ingredients in Chinese Tea. 2012.