Turkey tops EU in pesticide residue reports
Pesticide residues in Turkish agricultural products have become a major cause for concern as new data reveals a surge in pesticide usage in the country, surpassing 55,000 tons in the past year, Deutsche Welle Turkish reported on Friday. While pesticides are commonly used to control pests and weeds, their widespread application has raised health and environmental alarms.
The European Union (EU) has reported an alarming 430 pesticide-related incidents originating from Turkey, making it the leading source of such reports in the EU. The figures are part of the annual report released by the Alarm and Coherence Network (ACN), including data from the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) portal. Turkey's pesticide-related incidents in the EU rose significantly from 405 in 2021 to 430 in 2022.
The most commonly reported pesticide residues were found in fruits and vegetables, with bell peppers, citrus fruits, grapes, grape leaves, eggplants, zucchinis, tomatoes, watermelons, and pears being among the affected produce. Among the identified pesticides, chlorpyrifos, ethylene oxide, 2-chloroethanol, and chlorpyrifos methyl were the most prevalent.
Turkey's pesticide problem is not limited to its exports, as the country's own honey was reported to have the highest rate of suspicious samples, at 93%, according to the ACN report. Additionally, 39 batches of seeds, nuts, and related products from Turkey were found to contain aflatoxins, a highly toxic substance known to pose significant food safety risks.
Aflatoxins, when consumed in high doses, can have severe health consequences, making their presence in food and feed a major concern. To safeguard consumers, the Turkish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry conducts regular laboratory analyses during import, export, and routine inspections to ensure that products containing harmful levels of aflatoxins do not reach the market.
Despite being banned by the European Food Safety Authority in 2016, chlorpyrifos and similar substances continue to be found in exported products, indicating gaps in enforcement and oversight.
Turkey's alarming pesticide usage is also raising health concerns among its own population. Dr. Ahmet Soysal, a member of the Public Health Branch of the Turkish Medical Association, warns of both acute and chronic health effects associated with pesticide exposure. Acute symptoms, such as respiratory issues, gastrointestinal distress, and neurological effects, can result from improper pesticide handling.
More significantly, chronic exposure to pesticides through consumption of contaminated fruits, vegetables, and water can lead to serious health problems, including cancer and birth defects. Pesticides accumulate in the body, particularly in fatty tissues, kidneys, and the liver, making them difficult to eliminate once ingested.
The situation is further exacerbated by the alarming increase in pesticide usage in Turkey over the past decade. Official figures show that pesticide usage has risen from 39,440 tons in 2013 to 55,000 tons in 2022, with the majority of usage concentrated in ten provinces, including Antalya, Manisa, Mersin, Adana, and Malatya.
While concerns over pesticide residues in Turkish products grow, questions are being raised about the long-term environmental and health impacts of these chemicals, which can persist in the atmosphere, soil, and water. As the EU continues to flag pesticide residues from Turkey, calls for stricter regulation and enforcement are gaining momentum, with a particular focus on protecting food safety and public health.
Turkey's prominence in EU pesticide residue reports underscores the need for comprehensive measures to address the issue, from stricter regulations and monitoring to public awareness campaigns and support for sustainable agricultural practices. The health and well-being of both consumers and the environment are at stake, making it imperative to take swift action to mitigate the risks associated with excessive pesticide use.