New in this year’s report: A new sampling unit, increased volume of samplings, increased enforcement and reassessment of pesticides
89% of all samples were found to be OK • 36% of the samples were found not to contain any pesticide residues at all • The findings indicate that there has been a drastic reduction in exposure to toxic pesticides • Significant drop in percentage of irregularities in fruit
Broader and more accurate: The Ministry of Agriculture publishes the results of its annual survey of irregular use of pesticides in fresh plant-origin produce. In the 2017 survey, the Ministry of Agriculture implemented conclusions which arose from the last State Comptroller report, including: the Plant Protection and Inspection Services set up a new unit that samples the domestic agricultural produce at a greater degree of availability and, as a result, over the past year the Ministry took about 1,500 samples (compared with about a third of that in the past); about 35% of the samples collected were taken from the farm fields themselves (compared with only about 7% the previous year). Additionally, this last year, the Ministry has reinforced enforcement concerning the use of chemicals not as indicated on the label. The Ministry is tightening its cooperation with the Ministry of Health in all matters concerning discovery and interrogation of farmers in whose produce high levels of pesticide were found. Moreover, the Plant Protection and Inspection Services in the Ministry of Agriculture has begun re-evaluating the pesticides registered in Israel, and which are not registered in Europe. Any material found to be toxic, will be pulled from use.
The annual survey is conducted by the Plant Protection and Inspection Services in the Ministry of Agriculture, on fruit and vegetables sampled from the field and from packing houses. These are locally-grown blue-white produce. The 2017 survey findings indicate that 89% of the samples were in compliance with the standard, and 36% of them were found not to contain any pesticide residues at all. This being said, over 1,120 findings of pesticides present in the samples taken were within the limits of the standard, and of these over 850 were within a range below the standard limit by 0 to 25%, 11 were within the range of the analytical error, and 25 were found to be in violation of the standard.
In 2017, 702 samples of fresh fruit and vegetable produce were sampled from all regions and from all sectors in the country. These include 58 different crops (as opposed to 2016, in which 500 samples were taken). Moreover, 79% of the samples were taken from the fields at harvest time, from logistics centers and from packing houses. Another 10% of the samples were taken from the open markets (mainly the Hacarmel Market, Mahane Yehuda and Petach Tikvah). Also, in an effort to increase enforcement in all matters concerning the judicious use of pesticides, 11% of the samples were taken days before the produce gets picked and before it was prepared for sale, in an effort to enforce the use of pesticides on crops which do not appear in the approved pesticide label.
Half of the samples were vegetables, and the other half included: fruit, citrus and herbs
As mentioned earlier, the vast majority of the tests came out OK. From the report’s findings it appears that in avocado, watermelon, pears, oregano, artichoke, persimmon, sweet potato, onion (dry and green), cherries, butternut squash, aubergine, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, cauliflower, lychees, mango, apricot, nectarine, pittaya, passion fruit, prickly pear, rosemary, pomegranate, plum, fig, corn, dates, and potato - no irregularities were found at all (a violation rate of 0%).
At the same time, the Ministry stresses that of the 11% of irregularities, about half (approximately 5%) were found to be very low level violations, which apparently were the result of spray drift of pesticides, airborne from nearby fields. The analytical equipment has a sensitivity threshold enabling detection of even miniscule levels, including very low deviations from the maximum residue values permitted. It also appears that more than half of the violations (6%) were the result of pesticide use on crops which do not appear on the pesticide label (especially in crops grown in very small quantities), rather than being the result of high levels of pesticide residue on these crops (even the lowest level of pesticide detected on a crop not included in the label is considered a violation). High levels of violation were found on: lettuce, strawberries and herbs.
Also, in half of the remaining violations (38 cases only), clear violations were found, which resulted in investigation by the Ministry's Central Investigation and Enforcement Unit (PITZUACH) as to the circumstances of the event, leading to administrative fines.
A drop in the percentage of irregular samples was found in some of the crops:
|Crop||Percentage of irregular samples in 2016||Percentage of irregular samples in 2017||Crop||Percentage of irregular samples in 2016||Percentage of irregular samples in 2017|
The Plant Protection and Inspection Services emphasizes that not every irregularity endangers health and causes excessive exposure to pesticides. The meaning of the irregularities is that the pesticides are used in contradiction to the Ministry's guidelines on "good farming", and the Ministry will continue to monitor the farmers that operate in contravention of its guidelines.
Dr. Laila Shini-Hajj-Yahya, manager of the Chemistry and Pesticides Section in the Ministry of Agriculture: “In recent years there has been a drastic drop in exposure to toxic materials (organophosphates and carbamates) in local produce, due to the discontinuation if their use in Israel. When compared with the European standard, it appears that about half of the irregularities are not considered to be irregularities according to the European standard, since the European standard is in many cases less stringent than the Israeli one. The other half is the result of use on a crop not specified on the label in Israel, although the concentration found does not amount to a violation according to the European standard, since it is permitted for use there. In other words, use contrary to the label’s instructions does not necessarily lead to hazardous exposure to the pesticides. If we were to recognize the international standards, the survey results would have been even better”.