By: George Kurzom
Exclusive to Environment and Development Horizons:
According to a survey recently published by the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture, more than 10% of the vegetables and fruits in the Israeli markets that have been tested contain chemical residues with a concentration "greater than what is permitted globally”.
In 2014, a high percentage of pesticide residues were found in apples and melons, 34% and 29% of residues found in each respectively, as well as over 20% of residues found in peaches, tomatoes and plums. In 2015, excess pesticides were detected in 33% of cucumbers, 30% of peaches and about a quarter of melon samples - at least 15 samples were taken from all the crops mentioned. Some of the crops had a very high rate of excess.
Some Israeli agricultural crops were found to contain residues of a group of different pesticides, particularly in apples, grapes and spices, where residues were found from more than five different types of pesticides. The toxins that have been diagnosed are mostly insecticides and fungicides, in addition to detecting residues of banned pesticides.
It is known that health risks and diseases result from cumulative exposure to chemical pesticides or their repeated and continuous consumption through agricultural products, even in very small quantities, until their concentration in the human body reaches to what is known as the lethal dose, that is, an accumulation of toxins at dangerous levels for humans.
It is interesting to note that Israel's situation regarding the use of chemical pesticides is very bad compared to European countries and the United States, where the percentage of excess rate of pesticides in agricultural crops is small and does not exceed 3%.
A new Israeli research recently revealed that the amount of chemical pesticide residues in food in Israel is high and exceeds "safe" levels, especially when it comes to sensitive segments of the population, such as children.
A survey about the quantity of chemical pesticides used in Israeli agriculture was published in October 2012 and was conducted by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (Afaq Environmental Magazine, January 2013). The study found that the concentration of poisonous active ingredients in pesticides in Israel is the highest among OECD countries that includes the 34 richest "developed" countries in the world, including Israel. The study also revealed that the average amount of toxic active ingredients used in Israel per acre is 3.5 kg yearly, that is 88 times more than that of Sweden (0.04 kg per acre), which is the country using the least pesticides. Reports from the Israeli “State Comptroller” revealed (several times) that Israeli food contains chemical residues, in addition to the poor supervision.
A frightening Palestinian reality
The frightening thing about the miserable agricultural reality in Israel is the reflection of this reality on the areas of the Palestinian Authority (the West Bank and the Gaza Strip), which, according to the Oslo Accords and the Paris Economic Protocol, are one economic unit with the Israeli market; this Palestinian market is totally controlled by the Israeli occupation. Noting that Israel has linked the Palestinian agricultural economy with its economy, this means that Palestinians buy pesticides and chemical fertilizers from or through Israel.
If official and non-official Israeli institutions conduct research and laboratory tests on agricultural products in their markets, what is the situation of the Palestinian markets, in particular, with its fragile control on Palestinian crops and the flooding of the Palestinian market with poisoned Israeli food and agricultural goods without any control? Where are the periodic laboratory tests (not once every year or two) on random samples of Palestinian agricultural crops before they are marketed in the market? Knowing that the methods of laboratory tests are not the same, but rather vary depending on the compounds and chemicals tested. We also ask: What is the average amount of toxic active ingredients used in one acre in the West Bank and Gaza annually? What is the Palestinian per capita share of toxic active ingredients?
In fact, the West Bank and Gaza Strip are totally open to polluted agricultural goods, from both Israeli and Palestinian sources. Palestinian crops that are chemically contaminated, and which cannot be marketed in Israel because of their "failure" in Israeli laboratory tests, are re-marketed in Palestinian markets; unknown quantities of polluted Palestinian vegetables and fruits are marketed freely in the local markets. In addition to Israeli agricultural crops, which flood Palestinian markets without control or periodic Palestinian laboratory tests, are also marketed freely in Palestinian markets. Visiting the local market in Palestinian cities on Fridays, when the trucks unload the vegetables and fruits without any control, will prove the absence of supervision.
Finally, we should mention that the danger does not only lie in banned chemical pesticides but also in the use of pesticides that are considered "permitted", especially considering that agrochemical companies are often the primary source of information on pesticides for farmers or engineers. As we have revealed more than once in this magazine, many researches have proved the inaccuracy or even wrong information from these companies whose first and last purpose is to commercialize their chemical agricultural products, even at the expense of consumers’ health. More seriously, agrochemical companies do not hesitate to fabricate false research on behalf of scientists and researchers who have been bribed (Afaq Environmental Magazine, May 2017).
Translated by: Ghadeer Kamal Zaineh