Agrochem industry body to sue Greenpeace on toxic tea report

The agrochemicals industry association Crop Care Federation of India (CCFI), Thursday said it has decided to file a defamation suit seeking Rs.50 crore ($8 million) in damages from Greenpeace India for claiming that leading brands of tea sold in the country contain pesticides.

IANS| Last Updated: Sep 04, 2014, 19:21 PM IST

New Delhi: The agrochemicals industry association Crop Care Federation of India (CCFI), Thursday said it has decided to file a defamation suit seeking Rs.50 crore ($8 million) in damages from Greenpeace India for claiming that leading brands of tea sold in the country contain pesticides.

Greenpeace India is "consciously attempting to create an environment of scare mongering among the public through a fabricated and pseudo-scientific report on the Indian tea industry," CCFI said in a statement here.

"Greenpeace is continuously refusing to disclose and share essential elements of its 'findings', such as the raw data, chromatograms, the protocols followed, the name of the laboratory and scientists who analysed the tea sample allegedly collected from India," the statement added.

Greenpeace India said in the report last month that between June 2013 and May 2014 it tested samples of 49 branded packaged teas from eight of the top 11 companies that dominate the branded tea market in India and also export, and found a large number of the samples "tested positive for a cocktail of toxic pesticides".

"DDT was present in almost 67 percent of the tea samples even though it is no longer registered for use in agriculture in India and was banned in such applications as long ago as 1989," it said.

Responding to the report, state-run Tea Board of India said in a statement: "... having reviewed the findings of the Greenpeace study, (we) can confirm that all the samples tested comply with the Indian laws and regulations, designed to protect consumers. Indian teas are well regarded the world over and are totally safe following stringent standards."

Greenpeace India are standing by the report, they have have said in response to CCFI's legal notice of its resolve to file a defamation suit.

"The industry body's charges of the report being pseudo-scientific has no basis. The report is very scientific and has been prepared by accredited laborataries in Europe," Neha Saigal, senior campaigner for Greenpeace India told IANS from Bangalore.

"We are under no obligation to share data with third parties, because it is data pertaining to companies," Saigal added.

Instead, they were engaging with the tea companies in the matter of pesticides, the green camaigner said.

"Several tea companies including Hindustan Unilever Limited and Girnar Tea have, since (the report appeared), committed to phasing out of pesticides from tea. Response from other companies is awaited, while Greenpeace is actively engaging with them on the issue," the NGO said in a release Wednesday.