A cocktail of pesticides used in industrial apple production is contaminating the soil and surface water in Europe, with up to 13 different types of chemicals detected in one sample. The Bitter Taste of Europe’s Apple Production and how Ecological Solutions can Bloom, released by Greenpeace, includes testing results of 85 samples taken in 12 European countries.
Two thirds of water and soil samples contained pesticide residues, with 70 percent of the pesticides identified having very high overall toxicity to humans or wildlife. The report also demonstrates the practicability of ecological apple production without contaminating soil and water, and showcases how ecological farming methods can be applied in practice. Greenpeace calls on EU governments to ban synthetic-chemical pesticides from Europe’s fields, while supporting and scaling up innovative ecological farming solutions.
“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,” says Christiane Huxdorff, Ecological Farming Campaigner at Greenpeace Germany. “The massive use of pesticides in apple production is 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.”
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The report consists of two parts and provides an overview of apple production in Europe. The first part is a comprehensive analysis of 36 water and 49 soil samples, collected from conventionally managed apple orchards in twelve European countries during April 2015 and analyzed for pesticide residues. The samples represent a “snapshot” of the situation at the start of blossoming. The results show that a complex array of pesticides can be detected in soils and waters associated with apple orchards in Europe. Across the entire set of the 85 samples taken, a total of 53 different pesticides were found, with 78 percent of the soil samples and 72 percent 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 (soil 38 percent and water 40 percent). Seven of the pesticides found are not currently approved at EU level but can be used with exceptional member states’ authorizations. These residues may be present as a result of historical use of these pesticides, although in one case could have resulted from degradation.
Ecological Apple Growers Hold the Key to Future Farming in Europe
In the second part of the report, Greenpeace showcases several ecological solutions used in apple growing to reduce the use of chemical pesticides. A balanced agro-ecosystem is the key factor for ecological apple production since it increases resilience to pests and diseases while benefiting beneficial organisms. Fertilisation, soil management and cover crops for instance improve apple trees’ growth and decrease the susceptibility of the trees and their fruits to diseases. A stable agro-ecosystem also benefits natural enemies, such as predatory wasps, by improving the availability of pollen and nectar.
“The good news is that ready-to-use solutions already exist and are being implemented by thousands of ecological farmers all over Europe,” says Herman van Bekkem, Ecological Farming Campaigner at Greenpeace Netherlands. “In order to scale up good practices, also retailers 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 where they belong – to ecological farming practices, supporting healthy farmers protecting soils and water to produce healthy food for healthy people.”
The Greenpeace online platform www.Iknowwhogrewit.org is highlighting the failures and impacts of industrial agriculture and invites people to join the food movement to help fix the broken industrial system by completing personal challenges.
Incidentally, bees are crucial for the pollination of apples and a safe environment in and around apple orchards is key to protect them, adds Huxdorff. “The testing results showed that 8 out of 53 pesticides (15 percent) have a very high bee toxicity. Bees also drink
surface water and come in direct contact with, for example imidacloprid, which was found in one German water sample.”
To download the full report. click here: The Bitter Taste of Europe’s Apple Production and how Ecological Solutions can Bloom .
Christiane Huxdorff is an Ecological Farming campaigner who has been working with Greenpeace Germany for the past eight years. She is an environmental scientist and was closely involved in in the Greenpeace project to protect the bees and agriculture.
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