Avoid using chemically treated seeds in vegetable gardens

PHOTO: The Straits Times

KUALA LUMPUR: If you are thinking of starting your own vegetable garden, be careful when it comes to choosing the seeds.

The Consumers Association of Penang's (CAP) education officer N.V. Subbarow said the association had found vegetable seeds treated with neonicotinoids or fifth generation insecticides.

"These treated seeds are coloured, unlike the original seeds. We have found these seeds sold in Penang," he said in a press conference yesterday.

Also present were Ecoscience Research Foundation director Sultan Ahmed Ismail and entomologist N. Selvam, both from India.

Subbarow said the seed packages sold in Malaysia did not have proper labels either.

"Some of them were written in Chinese. Some packages show the origin of the seeds but not all," he said.

Subbarow said he would lodge a complaint with the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry soon.

Selvam said researches have shown that neonicotinoids poses danger to bees as it affects its neurotransmitter.

He said bees that came into contact with the seeds may not die outright but their ability to navigate to and from the hives would be impaired.

Sultan Ahmed, formerly the head of the Biotechnology Department at The New College in Chennai, India, said insects in contact with the chemical could lose their sense of direction.

"What we are worried about is farmers or consumers handling the seeds with their bare hands. We still do not know the long term effect of such a contaminant," he said.

He added that vegetables sprayed with the chemicals will deposit the residue into a person's liver tissues.

"It can cause your organs to become dysfunctional. It could also lead to cancer or tumour growth."

Subbarow hoped the Government could look into the issue and promote the exchanging and selling of farm-saved seeds.

He also urged the Government not to join the International Convention on the Protection of Plant Varieties, which prohibits farmers from freely saving, exchanging and selling their farm-saved seeds.

"This regulation will only increase corporate and multinational control of farming. Urgent action is needed to ensure that farmers are in control and able to grow diverse nutritious food, as well as be resilient in the fact of climate change and other challenges such as pests and diseases."

Subbarow said CAP also provides training for farmers and public on natural farming.