Pear pesticide screening kit developed to “double check” organic fruit

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Pear pesticide screening kit developed to “double check” organic fruit

Dutch molecular agro-diagnostics specialist NSure has developed a test kit that analyzes pear's gene activity to spot whether the fruit has been treated with shelf life-prolonging chemical 1-MCP. 

Speaking with Fresh Fruit Portal, CEO Theo Aanhane explains how the kit, which is currently designed to be used on the Abate Fetel variety, could appeal to the wholesale retail market as a way of verifying organic fruit.

He explains pears can be treated with 1-MCP to protect them from any adverse effect of ethylene, improving storability.

“Our market really falls in wholesale retail because 1-MCP treatment is not allowed in organic fruit and since it leaves no residue and is not traceable, and sometimes things that can’t be traced will be used, that’s for sure.

“But we don’t know to what extent to be honest and the organic industry probably wants to be sure that their growers do not use this treatment because when it becomes public that some of them do, then it’s bad for the image of the organic fruit industry.

“Some organic fruit organizations and some public control organizations are our biggest customers because they want to be sure the organic fruit that is being traded and ends up in the retail channel, is really organic.”

Aanhane says that FreshNSure Pear is an extension of a previous similar test developed for a range of apple varieties and the current version  will soon be expanded to include other pear varieties, starting with Conference.

“The test shows the difference between a treated and untreated batch of fruit based on gene activity measurements. 1-MCP is a gaseous treatment and after treatment it leaves no residue," he says.

"You cannot see anything by eye or even by residue measurements, you don’t really know whether a batch of fruit has been treated or not.

“We’re able to distinguish between treated and untreated batches of pears because of the activity of what we call indicative genes, that’s a selected group of genes.”

NSure is looking for local distributors and laboratory partners to speed up the turnaround time of test results as the company expects to be dealing with a range of clients around the world.

“The customer just needs to squeeze out some juice from 15 to 20 pears out of the total batch and put a couple of drops of juice on a card. This can be sent to a local laboratory or to the laboratory in Wageningen, in the Netherlands. We’re looking for more local labs able to carry out PCR [Polymerase chain reaction] analysis so that turnaround times can be reduced.

“We’re definitely planning to extend the test to kiwifruit later this year. We are waiting for some evaluation, then we can validate the genes on kiwifruit and will be in position to launch that test, which will probably be in the second half of this year.”

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