Greenpeace urges EU action on pesticide use
The report, entitled 'The Bitter Taste of Europe's Apple Production and how Ecological Solutions can Bloom', was released by the organization yesterday (June 16) and includes testing results of 85 samples taken in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Spain and Switzerland.
It says that two thirds of water and soil samples contained pesticide residues, with 70% of the pesticides identified having very high overall toxicity to humans and wildlife.
The report consists of two parts and provides an overview of apple production in Europe, including a comprehensive analysis of 36 water and 49 soil samples from conventionally managed apple orchards during April 2015, Greenpeace says.
Greenpeace describes its findings as a 'snapshot of the situation', adding the results show 'a complex array of pesticides can be detected in soils and waters associated with apple orchards in Europe.'
From the 85 samples taken, 53 different pesticides were found, with 78% of the soil samples and 72% of the water samples containing residues of at least one of these pesticides.
The most frequently found pesticide in soil and water is the fungicide boscalid and seven of the pesticides found are not currently approved at EU level, Greenpeace claims in a release. But it adds they can be used with exceptional member states' authorizations and may be present as a result of historical use.
"The current system of industrial apple production leaves a bitter taste as it is poisoning our soil and water, exposing people and the environment to cocktails of synthetic chemical pesticides," Greenpeace ecological farming campaigner Christiane Huxdorff says.
"The massive use of pesticides in apple production in another symptom of a broken system of industrial agriculture. The EU is one of the world's leading apple producers and consumers, so the importance of producing apples without poisoning our water and soil becomes clear.
"Moving away from a farming system highly dependent on chemicals is also essential to protect our farmers and their families who are directly exposed."
Ecological apple farming
The second part of the study focuses on the practicalities of ecological apple production without contaminating soil and water, and showcases how ecological farming methods can be applied in practice.
Greenpeace is also calling on EU governments to ban synthetic-chemical pesticides from European fields, while supporting scaling up innovative ecological farming solutions.
"The good news is that ready-to-use solutions already exist and are being implemented by thousands of ecological farmers all over Europe," adds Greenpeace ecological farming campaigner Herman van Bekkem.
"In order to scale up good practices, retailers also have to take their responsibility and start paying ecological prices to farmers, enabling them to shift to ecological farming.
"Furthermore, politicians must act and scale up ecological farming by shifting subsidies from industrial agriculture to farming practices, supporting healthy farmers protecting soils and water to produce healthy food for healthy people."
The reports adds that a balanced agro-ecosystem is the key factor for ecological apple production because it increases resilience to pests and diseases whilst benefiting beneficial organisms.
Fertilization, soil management and cover crops also improve apple trees growth and decrease the susceptibility of the trees and their fruits to diseases.
Photo: Wikimedia Creative Commons