Concern over pesticides in fruit & veg in Greece

Toxic pesticides residues in fruits and veggies in Greece: news of the systemic, the banned and even the illegal.

This year Greenpeace Greece has twice tested several fruits and vegetables for pesticide residues. Foods consumed daily such as apples, pears, peaches, bananas, potatoes, carrots and courgettes were found to carry toxic residues and in some cases illegal ones.

More specifically, between April and June 2013, Greenpeace tested 34 samples of 11 kinds of fruits of vegetables that are sold in the Greek market, most of them of Greek origin.

The samples were found to carry 32  highly toxic pesticide residues that are dangerous for humans and the environment. For instance, the market authorisation of several of these pesticides warns that: Thiacloprid – found in apples and pears- is likely that can be carcinogenic to humans, or Linuron – found in carrots- can harm an embryo during pregnancy, or Azoxystrobin, Chlorpyrifos, Deltamethrin, Indoxacarb, Imazalil, Linuron, Pyridaben, Captan – found in courgettes,  carrots, apples, pears and bananas) – are highly toxic to aquatic organisms or can cause harmful long term impacts to the aquatic environment.       

One of the most worrying findings is the presence of a chemical cocktail – i.e. a fruit or vegetable has been treated at the same time with several pesticides, insecticides or fungicides. For example, in four apple samples 17 different active substances, were found while one sample contained only 9 of them. In one sample of pears 6 different active substances were detected. Four samples of cherries carried 7 different active substances while two samples of tomatoes were found with 4 substances.

Half of the active substances that were detected belong to the category of systemic pesticides. Which means that they do not stay only on the external skin of the fruits and vegetables but can enter their tissue.

In addition, 8 of these active substances are known to also harm bees (see my previous blog), while some the pesticides that were detected are banned in the European Union for use in agriculture.

It seems that in Greece there is a real problem with illegal trade of chemical pesticides which has been worsened with the economic crisis.

According to various sources, illegal pesticides enter the country from the neighbour Balkan countries (Bulgaria, Macedonia, Turkey) in cheaper prices. In June, the Ministry of Agriculture announced fines of 268.100 euros to 93 traders for illegal trade and use of expired or non-authorised chemicals.

Even the National Association of Plant Protection  confirm that the problem of illegal pesticides is a reality that concerns the chemical producers, who have started a public campaign related to the dangers involved with the illegal trade as they obviously lose money from the illegal practices. (e.g. sources mention that one can find even DDT in farmers’ stocks).

The uncontrolled imports of pesticides have increased from 7% in 2008, to 15% in 2010 while it is said that right now could be up to 25%.

The Greek state needs obviously to take tighter measures to control the problem of illegal pesticides that harm the health first of all of the farmers, then ours and of course the soil and the water. But what is more important is the Ministry of Agriculture implementing a national action plan to make a real shift towards sustainable quality agriculture that will boost Greek agriculture and economy. The production of local, healthy, unique, ecological products, with no pesticides and gmos can give Greek agriculture a competitive advantage that really needs right now.

Myrto Pispini
About Myrto Pispini 41 Articles
Myrto Pipsini’s work covers both Greece and Spain. Currently a freelancer, Myrto has 15 years experience in environmental organisations, campaigning on agriculture and food issues. Being based in Spain and Greece, and being a lover of all good and natural Mediterranean food, she is experimenting with growing her own food, putting in practice what she is campaigning for.