Concern over pesticide levels in fruit and veg

Study based on official figures reveals nearly three-quarters of fruit and more than two-fifths of vegetables contain traces of 'quantifiable pesticides'

Nearly three-quarters of fruit and 41% of non-organic vegetables sold in French supermarkets bear traces of quantifiable pesticides, according to a report.

The Générations futures association called on the government to "take swift and effective measures to promote organic farming" and "drastically reduce the use of pesticides" in traditional agriculture, as it published the report four days ahead of the prestigious Salon de l'agriculture event in Paris.

It also pre-empted a government report on pesticide use, which is due at the end of March.

The study is based on official data, from the direction générale de la répression des fraudes (DGCCRF) between 2012 and 2016 that measured, in particular, the presence of pesticides in fruit and vegetables.

The study ranked 19 fruits and 33 vegetables according to levels of pesticides found.

A total 89% of grapes sampled by DGCCRF between 2012 and 2016 contained pesticide residues. More than 80% of sampled clementines, mandarins, cherries, grapefruit, strawberries, peaches, nectarines and oranges contained pesticide residues. The least polluted fruits were avocado (23%), kiwi (27%) and mirabelle plums (35%).

Some fruits exceeded European maximum allowable levels for pesticides - notably cherries, mangoes and papaya.

Of the 33 vegetables screened, the most commonly contaminated was celery: 84% of the samples tested contained pesticide residues. Celery was followed by fresh herbs (74.5%), endives (73%), celeriac (71%) and lettuce. In contrast, asparagus (3%) and corn (1.9%) were the least polluted.

Nearly one third of fresh herbs, celeriac, blettes and turnips in the study exceeded EU pesticide residue limits.

Government ministers Nicolas Hulot, Agnès Buzyn, Stéphane Travert and Frédérique Vidal recently met with around 60 representatives from interested parties to work on an action plan to cut pesticide and herbicide use in France.

Submissions are due to be made on March 9 ahead of the publication of a government plan at the end of the month.

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