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A new study has revealed that there is a surprising increase in the proportion of toxic pesticides contaminating fruit on food store shelves in Europe, contradicting claims by the European Commission that farmers are using fewer pesticides suspected of causing harm. be related to cancer and other serious diseases. diseases.
The study, carried out by the European Pesticide Action Network (BEN), found that there has been a 53 percent increase in contaminated produce over the last nine years.
“The dangers of pesticides have increased as a result of the increased demand to eat fruit,” says Salome Rwenel, an activist with the aforementioned network.
“Consumers are now in a bad spot, as they have long been asked to eat fresh fruit, much of which is contaminated with the most toxic pesticides associated with serious illness,” adds Rwenel.
What are the fruits and vegetables contaminated with pesticides?
The study conducted by BEN in Europe looked at the period between 2011 (the year governments were supposed to start banning pesticides) and 2019, and that study found that instead of decreasing levels of pesticides in agricultural products, it has increased constantly year after year. .
In 2019, the study recorded that one in three fruit samples in that year was contaminated, highlighting that half of the cherry, pear and peach samples that were taken were contaminated, while a third of apples, the fruit more consumed in Europe. , were contaminated, contain traces of toxic pesticides, and the fruits most contaminated with pesticides were blackberries, peaches and strawberries.
As for vegetables, of course they are less susceptible to insects and diseases, so the percentage of pesticide contamination is lower than in the case of fruits, but the analyzes carried out by the Action Network on Pesticide Issues showed a increase in the percentage of plant contamination of 19 percent.
The study shows that the vegetable most contaminated with pesticides is celery, as it found that 54 percent of the samples were contaminated and, at the same time, a third of the turnip samples contained traces of pesticides.
The most contaminated agricultural products
As for the countries whose agricultural products were registered in violation of sanitary procedures for containing chemicals, it was Belgium, which found contamination in 34 percent of fruit and vegetable samples, while Ireland registered 26 percent, while in France, Germany, and Italy, just over 20 percent of samples of these products were found to have traces of pesticides.
The study noted that there is an increase in chemical combinations used in agricultural products, doubling the risks to consumers. These combinations are known to double the negative health effects, with the possibility of other unknown consequences.
Belgium and Portugal
The researchers found that 50 per cent of pear samples taken across Europe were contaminated with five strong chemical agents, reaching 87 per cent in Belgium and 85 per cent in Portugal.
“The effects of pesticides are perfectly safe,” warns researcher Ronelle.
“But health experts say some chemicals don’t have safety limits, and that goes for most of those pesticides,” Ronelly adds.
Phase out of toxic pesticides
European governments had announced that they had taken a course towards phasing out toxic pesticides, in response to European Union demands on the matter in 2011, but a European Commission report published in 2019 revealed that no action has been taken. work to remove any of them. agricultural pesticides.
“It is clear that governments have no intention of banning pesticides, regardless of the law,” says researcher Ronelle, arguing that governments “are too afraid of the agricultural lobby that is based on strong chemicals and a failed farming method.” , as he says.
European measures to reduce pesticides
More than a third of Europeans are concerned about the problem of pesticide contamination in food, and in 2017, a petition was submitted to the European Union, signed by more than a million people, calling for a total ban on pesticides. .
The European Commission is due to announce new measures to reduce pesticides on June 22, as part of efforts to protect nature.
The European Commission is seeking binding new rules to halve pesticide use by 2030, but the Pesticide Action Network (BEN) Europe says lobbyists are trying to counter such efforts.
Despite the bleak outlook, consumers are unable to find alternatives to fruit that contain pesticides, and in this context, says researcher Ronelle, “We urge people to buy organic fruit this summer, especially pregnant and lactating women.” , because the risks are much lower. or even non-existent.” If the mentioned fruit is used, according to the confirmation of it.
In addition to what the researcher Ronelle mentioned, washing the fruit well would help remove pesticides.