Expressing deep shock and grief over the tragic incident of food poisoning at the Dharmasati Primary School in Bihar's Chhapra District in which 25 children lost their lives, Greenpeace has offered condolences to the bereaved families.
"The news of children dying of food poisoning after eating mid-day meal is tragic. Our immediate thoughts are with the families and the people of Bihar," said Ishteyaque Ahmad, Greenpeace India's Sustainable Agriculture campaigner, based in Bihar
Although the reasons behind the incident remain still unknown, media reports point to contamination of a toxic chemical or pesticide in the food that was served to children as mid-day meal. This clearly points out how these dangerous agro-chemicals are handled in rural areas of India. These chemicals are often used carelessly without proper protective measures. Not only are the pesticides misused, even their empty bottles are used to store edible oils and drinking water.
It is becoming more and more evident that regulatory and extension systems with respect to agro-chemical usage in India is in shambles and there is no proper mechanism to monitor the situation.
"Pesticides, often promoted as "dava" (medicine) for agriculture are poisons and whether directly used in agriculture, or come in contact with food are extremely dangerous to health and can even prove to be fatal. Pesticides are known to have chronic adverse impacts on human health, the environment and soil and biodiversity," said Shivani Shah, Campaigner - Food Safety, Greenpeace India.
"State governments should straight away ban the use of these poisonous chemicals and invest in ecological (organic) agriculture models which does not rely on chemical pesticides and can produce enough healthy food for all today and tomorrow," added Shah.
The mid-day meal scheme, which is the world's largest school feeding programme, has the potential to fight malnutrition in the country if handled with proper care.
Greenpeace demands that the government should ensure mid-day meals to be not only hygienic, but also organically grown and safe.