By Darío Aranda
Eight out of ten vegetables and fruits have pesticides. This is affirmed by an investigation carried out by the National University of La Plata (UNLP), in which green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits and vegetables were analyzed. 76.6 percent had at least one chemical and 27.7 percent of the samples had between three and five agrochemicals. “The variety of pesticides is very large. And the chemical cocktail is very strong, "said Damián Marino, co-director of the work. Among the most detected products is the insecticide endosulfan, banned in Argentina since 2013.
“Pesticides. Undeclared condiments ”is the name of the study carried out by researchers from the Multidisciplinary Space for Socio-Environmental Interaction (Emisa), of the UNLP. The work, carried out between November 2014 and April 2015, analyzed 60 samples of fruits and vegetables. Separated by categories, 83 percent of citrus (oranges and mandarins) and carrots have pesticides. 78 percent of bell peppers and 70 percent of green leafy vegetables (lettuce and chard) also tested positive.
The food contained the insecticides lambdacialothrin, endosulfan, chlorpyrifos, and cypermethrin. And the fungicides (for fungi) tebuconazole, tpoxiconazole. "These are the friends of the famous glyphosate herbicide," said Damián Marino, when he presented his work at the Socio-Environmental Health Congress of the Rosario School of Medical Sciences. “Endosulfan is one of the most common compounds. And let us remember that it is prohibited in Argentina ”, Marino remarked.
The researchers agree on the importance of studying and alerting about the use of the herbicide glyphosate (the most widely used in the country, in soybeans and corn, among others), but they also point out that their "friends" are present on a daily basis at the dinner table. the Argentines.
The work affirms that small producers are also victims of the model that encourages them to use pesticides. It urges governments to take urgent action and draws attention: the solution is not to replace one poison with another, but to stop using them. He affirms that the chemical industry always presents a pesticide as innocuous and, over the years and with many affected people, they withdraw it from the market due to the health condition it causes.
Marino exemplified with the insecticide DDT. Created in 1947, in the early 1960s it was already highly questioned. It was only in 1972 that the United States banned them and only in 2001 did it enter the Stockholm Convention (an international space sponsored by the UN that regulates the treatment of toxic substances). "Agriculture based on agrochemicals is an infinite wheel at the expense of the health of the people," denounced the researcher. And he warned that with the famous glyphosate (used in transgenic soybeans and corn, among other crops) the same will happen.
The work of analyzing vegetables, fruits and vegetables is part of an extension project of the UNLP together with the Banco Alimentario de La Plata, an NGO that recovers up to four tons of food per month. And that is distributed in dining rooms, parishes and families. Fruits and vegetables belonging to businesses close to the UNLP were also selected. The investigation highlights the responsibility of the State, which allows a form of production and commercialization that implies feeding with poisons.
A section is dedicated to the "Maximum Regulatory Limit (MRL)", which corresponds to what is stipulated by the State of how much poison a food can have. The work indicates that, if the MRL is taken strictly, eight percent of the samples analyzed exceed the allowed value. But it highlights that there are products that are not regulated and should not have certain chemicals, but they do. Example: the insecticide cypermethrin was found in vegetables, citrus fruits and carrots, which has no established MRL (and should not be used for these foods).
The MRL is based on the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI). “It is not clear how they determine it. In many cases it is the result of a 'black box' for data entry, which also takes pre-existing information when published, which in some cases is almost ten years old, and does not correspond to the dynamics of scientific information ”, warned Marino . The LMR-IDA for children does not differ either.
The UNLP researchers highlighted in their work the concern of food with pesticides, even when they comply with the limits established by the State. “According to our measurements, a multi-component salad can mean simultaneous exposure to a mixture of pesticides and nothing is known about the biological response to their elimination. The toxicity of mixtures continues to be a great chapter of research and debate, little is known regarding the effects of mixtures of active pesticides and their effects on health, especially in chronic exposures such as this case ”, assured Marino.
The research indicates that work must be done to consume products with the absence of pesticides, for which public policies are required for support and accompaniment from producers and even marketing.