A large part of the food we eat contains traces of several different chemical pesticides.It shows the British Soil Association and the Pesticide Action Network in a new report. When several chemical pesticides are used together, the overall effect on people and the environment can be exacerbated.
In conventional agriculture, a mixture of chemicals is used to control weeds, insects and fungal infestations. But the chemicals also spread to the soil, groundwater, lakes, seas and streams. And when the various substances are mixed and interacted, they can exacerbate each other’s dangerous effects. This is what is called the cocktail effect.
"As many as 92 percent of the oranges, 87 percent of the pears and 64 percent of the apples in the samples had pesticide residues."
In order to highlight the risk with the cocktail effect, the Soil Association – the UK’s equivalent of KRAV – together with the interest organization Pesticide Action Network, has produced the report The Cocktail Effect. The report shows that over a third of all fruits and vegetables analyzed by the UK Control Authority contained residues of more than one chemical pesticide. As many as 92 percent of the oranges, 87 percent of the pears and 64 percent of the apples in the sample had pesticide residues.
"Chemical pesticides are one of the reasons why the world's insect species are on the decline."
On the basis of most scientific studies, the report also states that chemical pesticides are one of the reasons why the world’s insect species are on the decline. Butterflies, bumblebees, bees and other pollinators are considered to be particularly threatened – a development that, in the long run, risks threatening global food supply.
Chemical pesticides in Swedish groundwater sources.
The Swedish Food Agency also finds pesticide residues on the food in its sample checks. During Swedish sampling 2016, among other things, chlorpyrifos (which is not approved for use in Swedish agriculture) was found among 39 percent of all citrus fruits. Chlorpyrifos has been linked to increased incidence of developmental disorders and the risk of lower IQ in children in several studies.
In addition, the Swedish environmental monitoring program finds residues of a variety of pesticides in our surface and groundwater every year. When the County Administrative Board in 2016 examined the Scanian groundwater revenues from which the region derives its drinking water, pesticides were found in 22 of 27 groundwater sources. In some cases, the levels were so high that the water was considered as unfit as drinking water.
Agriculture needs to reduce its dependence on chemical pesticides
Despite the growing knowledge of the negative effects that chemical pesticides can cause when combined with each other, each substance is nevertheless assessed separately. To rectify the problem, you need to take into account the cocktail effect and take a holistic approach to the amount of chemicals we are exposed to. In addition, we need to ensure that agriculture as a whole reduces its use of chemical pesticides.