Surely Low-Chem Pesticide Approval is More Important Than the Shape of Our Fruit and Veg?

Surely Low-Chem Pesticide Approval is More Important Than the Shape of Our Fruit and Veg?

Bonkers, EU rules banning less than perfectly-shaped fruit and vegetables could be coming back to haunt us.

Last July (2009) we thought we’d seen the last of a regulation that’s been a 20-year source of media mirth and mockery when the EU overturned its ban on more than 30 species of wonky fruit and veg. But no, six months on the Eurocrats have caved in and agreed to consider bringing back the ban on misshapen fruit and vegetables following pressure from Spain, with possible backing from Italy, France and Hungary who had all objected to its being lifted last year. The push to reintroduce the ban has a lot to do with the four trying to protect their domestic food markets and their export revenues. That may be an understandable response during a global economic crisis of the current extent.

When there’s also a growing global threat of food shortagen does it make sense for the EU to be seriously contemplating the lunacy of chucking out perfectly safe and edible fresh produce – merely because a cucumber doesn’t have a perfect curve or a carrot has a small carbuncle? It plainly doesn’t seem to have mattered that revoking the rules is believed to have reduced waste and cut food prices by an estimated 40 per cent in some situations. Nor, seemingly, was it applicable that it could also have saved the UK’s fresh produce industry an estimated £250,000 a year in admin costs, which would ultimately assistance consumers’ pockets.

For once the UK seems to be the voice of sanity in this discussion. Nigel Jenney, CEO of the Food Produce Consortium said: “We would reject a ban on so-called wonky fruit and veg here in the UK. The UK fresh produce industry has taken advantage of a more flexible approach, to the assistance of consumers, especially during these frugal times.”

Do we really care about wonky fruit and veg?

Did anyone bother to ask cash-strapped shoppers whether, in the midst of a global recession, they appreciated the opportunity of being able to buy misshapes at greatly reduced prices, consequently giving them the option of continuing to buy healthy natural elements instead of presumably cheaper processed products?

Surely what is most important to anyone wanting to do their best for their family is that the food they buy in the weekly shop is affordable, healthy and above all as safe to eat as possible. Another component of last July’s EU updated Regulation update could be far more meaningful than arguments about wonky vegetables. It imposes tighter controls on imports of “certain satisfy and food of non-animal origin” from countries outside the EU because of the risk they contain banned chemical agro-products.

Among the produce listed in the regulations* are: groundnuts (peanuts) from Argentina, various spices from India, Basmati Rice from Pakistan and India – all unprotected to contamination with Aflatoxins, naturally occurring toxins produced by fungi and in high quantities can cause diseases of the liver. The list also includes Bananas from the Dominican Republic (various traces) and fresh, chilled or frozen Vegetables, (peppers, courgettes and tomatoes) from Turkey (highly toxic chemical pesticides: methomyl and oxamyl).

(* EC Regulation 669/22009)

The UK’s Food Standards Agency is currently consulting on the regulations – causing a delay which, Nigel Jenney claims, is having “a devastating impact on importers”. But from the consumer perspective surely we should welcome anything that helps protect us from exposure to high-chem pesticides in our food.

If, at the same time, the tighter import restrictions encourage overseas producers to switch to low-chem “bio-pesticides” which are produced from natural supplies, biodegrade quicker, leave fewer traces in produce and target specific pests, unlike the earlier wide-spectrum chemical pesticides that attacked friend, foe, soil and water alike then surely both producers, consumers and the world’s soil and water resources will assistance.

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