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Greenpeace testing: Pesticides found on apples pose risk to environment

Supermarkets have to phase out pesticides in fruit and vegetable production

Press release - October 21, 2015
Hamburg/Amsterdam – While all organic apples tested are free of pesticides, 83% of the tested conventional apples were contaminated with pesticide residues – with 60% containing two or more substances. These results published by Greenpeace today were obtained from testing supermarket apples [1] purchased in 11 European countries. Half of the pesticides found are known to be toxic to aquatic organisms, like water fleas and fish, or to bees and other beneficial insects.

With numerous pesticides having bioaccumulative properties, impacts on reproduction, or other hazardous properties [2] and with numerous data gaps, the potential for human health impacts cannot be entirely dismissed. Greenpeace urges supermarkets to phase out hazardous pesticides in fruit and vegetable production and support farmers to switch to ecological practices.

Christiane Huxdorff, Ecological Farming Campaigner at Greenpeace Germany said:

Chemical pesticides are present in our food from the field to the plate. Although all residues found were below food safety limits, the diversity of pesticides found reflects the fact that multiple pesticide applications are routine in conventional apple growing. Considered together with a lack of knowledge about possible impacts of pesticide cocktails, in the environment or upon human health, this gives rise to significant concerns. It is also not acceptable that farmers and their families have to carry the toxic burden of a failing system of industrial agriculture.”

Greenpeace tested 126 apple samples, of which 109 were conventionally produced and the remainder organic. The apples were purchased from 23 supermarket chains [3], and tested by an independent laboratory for a broad range of pesticide residues. In total 39 different pesticides residues were detected. Only 17% of the conventional apples proved to be free of detectable pesticide residues. Some of these pesticides are considered to be highly persistent and have the potential to bio accumulate. This means that once they are released into the environment, they break down slowly and can be taken up and accumulated by a variety of organisms throughout the food web. This then can cause widespread harm to the whole ecosystem.

The apples were purchased in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Spain and Switzerland and originate from national production. This Greenpeace analysis confirms the results obtained from water and soil samples taken earlier this year in apple plantations all across Europe, where many pesticide residue cocktails were found. [4]

“Consumers don’t want to be unwittingly responsible for damaging our ecosystem. Supermarkets urgently need to break this toxic cycle and encourage the reduction and elimination of pesticide use in conventional apple production, beginning with the most hazardous pesticides. Supermarkets should also offer more apples grown using pesticide free techniques and support farmers to shift to ecological farming practices”, said Huxdorff.

The Greenpeace online platform www.Iknowwhogrewit.org shows that more than 60,000 have already joined the movement supporting ecological farming.

Notes to editors:

[1] Huxdorff, C; Johnston, P; Santillo, D; (2015) “Pesticide application as routine in EU apple production”, Greenpeace Germany e.V. Please download the testing conclusions here .

[2] Chlorpyrifos, Chlorthalonil, Phosmet and Thiophanat-methyl.

[3] Supermarket chains including their brands: Albert Heijn, Aldi, Alnatura, Auchan, Basic, Billa, Bioplanet, Carrefour, Casino, Colruyt, Coop, Delhaize, Edeka, Gazdovsky, Gimel, Hofer, Intermarché, Kaufhof, Leclerc, Lidl, Mercadona, Migros, NaturaSi, Netto, Real, Rewe, Penny, Spar, Super U.

[4] “The Bitter Taste of Europe’s Apple Production and How Ecological Solutions can Bloom” a co-publishing project between Greenpeace International Science Unit and Greenpeace Netherlands.

Cotter, J; Reuter, W. (2015) “The Bitter Taste of Europe’s Apple Production. An Analysis of Pesticides in European Apple Orchards”

Johnston, P.; Santillo, D.; van Bekkem, H.; van der Sterren, M. (2015) “How Ecological Solutions can Bloom. Ecological Pest Management and Alternative Control For The Most Important Diseases And Pests in Apples”


Christiane Huxdorff - Ecological Farming Campaigner at Greenpeace Germany : +49 171 603 55 29

Christine Gebeneter - EU Communications Coordinator Ecological Farming at Greenpeace Netherlands, +31 62 9 11 00 46,