It looks like the brouhaha over the pesticide is cola controversy is set to die down, at least for now. The state of Kerala had imposed a ban on colas in the state, but they have lost. First, it was the High court which squashed the ban. And when the state appealed to the Supreme court, the court in a judgement a few days ago refused to stay a Kerala High Court order. Their reasoning is that the state of Kerala did not have the authority to ban these drinks. Only the Central government has such authority. And if the central government thought the colas were good enough to drink, what right had Kerala to question this?
Well, the CSE (Centre for Science and Environment) which had submitted the original report about the level of pesticides in soft drinks has not changed its stand. They believe that letting Pepsi and Coke off is a political issue and that the fact that the drinks contain pesticides has been deliberately overlooked by the Central government. They insist that colas in India contain high levels of pesticides. CSE had submitted their initial report in 2003, and you can read the full story since the first release of the findings to the government till today here.
So, what is the truth? Well, high levels of pesticides have been found in ground water in India. And that is where Pepsi and Coke source their water from. If ground water contains pesticides, then one can assume that Pepsi and Coke contain them too. But guess what the cola companies are saying? Something like: apples and milk and everything else contains pesticides…so why target us? They feel it is a witch hunt. A witch hunt against multi-national companies.
Well, apparently it is possible to take the pesticides out of colas. There is a technology available to do that. If the cola companies are not doing it, its because it will add to their costs.
CSE is very clear on the fact that pesticides in fruits and vegetables cannot be compared with those in colas because the former have some sort of nutrition in them, while colas don’t. This is what they say:
International standards for pesticide residue all over the world (including in the US and EU) recognise the trade-off between pesticides and nutrition. They give us something in this poison-nutrition trade-off. We get nothing with colas. Just pesticides.
Well, I hadn’t made up my mind about this controversy until now. Once I went through the CSE findings in detail I found myself believing them. But if I have decided to avoid colas for now, it could be because I don’t like the stuff anyway.