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Apex court orders burning of fungus infected Chinese garlic

By Rana Ajit, IANS,

New Delhi : The Supreme Court has ordered that 56 tonnes of fungus infected garlic imported from China be burned immediately as the central government felt that the fungus would spread in India and treatment of the consignment with fungicides would make it unfit for consumption.

A bench of Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice Mukundakam Sharma Wednesday ordered the burning of the fungus infected garlic, which was imported from China in early 2005. The consignment is presently rotting in a quarantined custom warehouse near Jawaharlal Nehru port in Mumbai.

After the consignment was found infected with “embellisia alli and traces of urocystis capulae”, the customs authorities revoked the import permission given to Exim Rajathi India Private Limited, the company which brought the garlic from China.

This led the importers to move the Bombay High Court, which ordered the release of the consignment to the importers after fumigating the same with methyl bromide.

However, dissatisfied with the high court order, the union government moved the apex court, contending that “there is a strong risk of this fungus, at present totally absent in India, affecting the future cultivation here for the reason that the scales of such infected garlic are peeled of for its use and thrown into dust bins as garbage and used as manure”.

“This is one of the ways by which some other fungus got introduced in countries including India and elsewhere, and caused permanent damage to the crops which the agricultural experts found difficult to solve,” the government told the apex court.

The government said that “in the present case, before the garlic was loaded in China for import to India, it was treated with methyl bromide fumigation. But this is a treatment for killing insects and pests and not for killing fungi.”

“Fungi can be killed by fungicides and if earlier treated with fungicides it becomes harmful for human consumption. The methyl bromide fumigation treatment is not found to be effective against fungi as found on testing by Indian Agriculture Research Institute, New Delhi,” it said.

“Methyl bromide treatment is generally not recommended for perishable commodities like garlic and garlic treated with methyl bromide would become dangerous for human consumption,” the government added.

Upholding the government’s contentions, the apex court ordered the destruction of the garlic by burning it at the earliest in presence of customs authorities.