The main objective of the project is to develop tests for pesticides that have given rise to significant residue problems in India or Australia. Antibody tests will be developed for individual pesticides such as DDT and its metabolites, hexachlorocyclohexane (HCH, and its gamma isomer), endosulfan and dimethoate. A range of broad-specificity tests will be developed for analysis of groups of pesticides such as organophosphates, carbamates, organochlorines and fungicides. Test procedures already developed by CSIRO will be modified for use on fruit, vegetables, tea, oilseeds and other fatty commodities. An appropriate kit format for drinking water will also be included.
In India, agriculture is the most important sector of the economy, accounting for over 30% of gross domestic product. The use of chemicals (mainly insecticides) to control pests, poses a regular health risk. India is the largest producer and user of pesticides in Asia and continues high-level consumption of many active ingredients which have been banned elsewhere. A comprehensive and reliable residue monitoring program is needed to complement pest and postharvest management strategies to ensure that levels of residues in food remain acceptably low.
Major techniques currently used for monitoring chemical residues are gas chromatography (GC) and high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) but these methods require extremely expensive equipment and highly trained technicians, and are rarely available in developing countries such as India. Indian scientists have been active in research to develop simple spectroscopic tests, but the sensitivity of the assay is low and scientists need more laboratory equipment.