The State Comptroller report published Tuesday, said the public is constantly exposed to prohibited pesticides. Eating fruit and vegetables instead of building health could, G-d forbid, cause cancer. The Israeli public ingests substances sprayed on their produce banned or restricted in Europe and the United States. Laboratory tests prove imported vegetables also contain toxic pesticides banned for use in Israel, and dangerous fecal bacteria.
The comptroller with his team say this is a worrying state of affairs where Israel lags behind most Western countries in standardization and controlled use of pesticides and spraying, and current conduct exposes the public to serious health and sanitation risks. The report also states that the Plant Protection and Inspection Services Unit of the Ministry of Agriculture only takes samples coming to them from farmers and does not properly supervise the farmers' work.
Only a few months ago, Channel 2 Israeli news exposed dangerous substances found in peppers from Jordan, and more recently, eggplants imported from Gaza were sprayed with a carcinogenic pesticide completely forbidden in Israel and Europe. These cucumbers and eggplants had organic phosphorus pesticide residues which can damage the nervous system and is prohibited for use in Israel and in many other countries. Pears from Spain had four different prohibited substances. Residues of permitted insecticide were up to 20 times higher than the permitted standard.
“Agricultural use of pesticides is considered a common farming method in Israel and around the world to protect produce from pests,” explains Comptroller Shapira in his report, “because of the toxicity of these substances, it is desirable that no residue of pesticides is left on the fruit or vegetable by the time they reach the market. The last study by Ministries of Agriculture and Health in 2015, shows in 13% of the types of fruit and vegetables examined, pesticide residues were exceptionally high in a third to more than half of the samples.
“These findings mean the Israeli consumer is exposed to a considerable amount of produce which have too much pesticides” the comptroller said. “We should not be complacent with the survey’s findings which show unacceptable residual levels of pesticides in produce.”
In response the Agricultural Ministry said that “we are currently promoting a policy change for the use of pesticides in produce to protect public health, completing a supervision system to reduce pesticide use… It is understood that EU standards can and should be adapted to Israel.”
“The Ministry is considering a recommendation to the Inter-ministerial Committee of the Ministries of Agriculture, Health, Environmental Protection and Economics, to approve the use of pesticides permitted and licensed in Europe without needing the present process of licensing pesticides in Israel. Farmers will then have readily available pesticide solutions instead of what will be banned from use in the European Union…the ministry a few years ago, disqualified a large number of pesticides, 40% of all active ingredients.The Ministry wants the standard to be in accordance with Western regulations so that permitted insecticide residue levels in Israel will conform to the permitted levels in target markets.
“The Ministry agrees with the State Comptroller that testing samples received from farmers is no substitute for supervision of how much and what type of pesticide can be used in agricultural produce. This needs greater manpower out in the field. Unfortunately, increasing manpower is no longer in the hands of the Ministry. The Supreme Court decided that this supervision is a government function; as such it should not be outsourced. Yes, the ministry's hands are tied; the sample survey is only a temporary solution.”
“In addition, we thank the Comptroller for criticizing the supervision and promotion of reducing pesticide use. Upon receiving the report the Ministry worked thoroughly to understand the gaps and ways to implement the desired solutions. We will use the points he raised to promote the issue for the benefit of the general public in Israel.”