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For 10 years, the amount of pesticides in European fruits and vegetables has increased dramatically
25 May, 10:23
For 10 years, the amount of pesticides in European fruits and vegetables has increased dramatically
Photo: Slow Food International
A large-scale study showed that pollution with the most dangerous pesticides increased by 53%, every third apple is contaminated with them.

The Pesticide Action Network (PAN) released the results of a study that examined the pesticide content of fruits grown in Europe. Scientists have tested 100,000 fresh fruits from the 2019 harvest for pesticides.

The conclusions are extremely disappointing: since the last study, conducted nine years ago, the content of the most dangerous pesticides has increased by 53%.

  • The most contaminated fruits and berries were blackberries (51% of samples contained pesticides), peaches (45%), strawberries (38%), cherries (35%) and apricots (35%).
  • Among vegetables, pesticides are highest in lettuce celery (50%), root celery (45%) and kale (31%).
  • Pollution increased sharply in apples (by 117%) and cherries (by 152%).
  • 87% of pears in Belgium and 85% of pears in Portugal in 2019 were contaminated with at least one toxic pesticide.

Experts call the results of the report shocking: vegetables and fruits have always been considered the basis of a healthy diet, but now, when every third apple is contaminated, this is already in the past. Pesticides have been proven linked to cancer, birth defects, heart disease. At the same time, there is no safe amount - even minimal doses can affect health.

Pesticide phase-out does not look realistic: farmers depend on chemicals to thrive, and farmers have strong lobbies in European governments. In addition, a food crisis is unfolding before our eyes, and the European Commission has already announced a temporary waiver of green farming rules. Under these circumstances, PAN representatives have urged consumers to buy organic fruits, especially if they are pregnant or breastfeeding young children.

To officials, the PAN data did not seem worthy of attention. Thus, representatives of the European Trade Association of Agrochemical Companies stated that “the presence of traces of a substance does not mean that food is unsafe. The European Food Safety Authority (Efsa) conducted an extensive study on this topic, which showed that the risk from cumulative exposure is below the threshold value.” Representatives of the European Commission added that "for many years, the Efsa report showed that 98% of the collected samples comply with EU legislation".

However, independent experts say there is much to worry about, and the new study likely found only the tip of an "agrochemicals iceberg" that goes beyond pesticides.