Of 76 different fruits and vegetables recently evaluated, Turkish peppers contained the most excessive and dangerous amounts of pesticide chemicals, according to Food Without Pesticides, a new 26-page guide to European food released this week by Greenpeace Germany.
The rotten facts
Turkish peppers topped the list of “most contaminated” produce in the guide, with an average of 24 chemical substances found in the specimens analyzed. In second place, with an average of 10 chemical substances, were Turkish pears. Nine chemical substances were found in Turkish pears, on average, putting them at third place.
Eleven different Turkish crops were rated, using 582 samples. The guide used a green/yellow/red light system to show its ratings, with a red light meaning that more than one-third of the samples had dangerous levels of chemicals in them.
Of all 23 major fruit-and-vegetable-exporting countries that were evaluated in the report, Turkey had the highest number of crops in the “red light” category. The study was conducted using fruit taken from retail and wholesale stores in Europe in 2009 and 2010, but it is unlikely that pesticide use has declined significantly in Turkey since then.
Pregnant women, sick people, and children are especially advised to avoid food in the “red light” category, according to Greenpeace.
Impact on Turkish export market
Agriculture is a mainstay of the Turkish economy, with Turkish fruit and vegetable exports totaling $2.339 billion in 2011 alone, according to Vatan newspaper.
It’s still unclear how the Greenpeace report will affect this sector. The Food Without Pesticides guide has not been translated into English yet, but when it is, many European consumers may think twice about where the produce they buy comes from.
There are certainly potential organic produce exporters that the European market hasn’t yet tapped. Although the current situation makes it difficult to tell whether they’re still functioning, Syria has a very advanced network of organic farms that are ready to being exporting to Europe.
In the long term, the Greenpeace report will hopefully increase pressure on the Turkish government to regulate the use of pesticides more strictly within the country, and provide financial incentives to encourage more organic farming.
After all, pesticides can pose a very immediate threat to human health: just consider the case of the Dubai man who died last August after inhaling poisonous fumes from rabbit pesticide.
Read more about pesticide use in the Middle East: