Dramatic increase in pesticides in fruit and vegetables in the EU

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BRUSSELS (AP) – Contamination of fruits and vegetables produced in the European Union by the most toxic pesticides has increased significantly over the past decade, according to a new study published on Tuesday.

The study, by the Pesticide Action Network Europe group, says European citizens have faced a “dramatic increase” in both the frequency and intensity of pesticide residues.

The EU has tough rules on pesticides and has previously said it aims to halve their use by 2030 as part of its goal to reach zero greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century.

Contrary to data from the EU executive showing a 12% reduction in the more dangerous pesticides in 2019 compared to 2015-2017, the Forbidden Fruit report claims that their use has actually increased by 8.8%.

The European Commission did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The most dangerous pesticides belong to the so-called group of substitution candidates, which the Commission has flagged up as problematic to the member states and which should be replaced by less toxic substances. Some of them have been linked to the risk of developing cancer, heart problems, and other serious illnesses.

“The use of the most dangerous pesticides in Europe is actually increasing, not decreasing. Laws are being ignored and consumers are facing a rising tide of chemical exposure,” researchers said.

A total of 97,170 fruit samples were included in the analysis for the period 2011-2019. From a contamination rate of 18% in 2011, this increased to 29% in 2019, with an average increase in contamination of 53% in nine years. While kiwis were nearly free of these substances 10 years ago, about a third are now contaminated, and half of all cherries sampled were spoiled in 2019, compared to 22% in 2011.

“Often the food contains several residues of two or more of these toxic substances at the same time,” said activist Salomé Roynel. “This clearly shows that the substitution rules have never been implemented by the member states and they have not fulfilled their responsibility to protect consumers.”

According to the study, half of the pears produced in Europe were contaminated with up to five such substances, and the figure for pears grown in Belgium was as high as 87%.

The group said member countries should ban the 12 most toxic substitution candidates immediately and called on the European Commission to ensure substitution guidelines are independently reviewed by the end of the year.

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