Toxic food? Israel tops Western charts for poisonous pesticide use

Survey finds more chemicals — some of them banned — used per sq. km. than in any other developed country

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

An agricultural aircraft sprays crops with fertilizers, pesticides, and fungicides. (Doron Horowitz/Flash90)
An agricultural aircraft sprays crops with fertilizers, pesticides, and fungicides. (Doron Horowitz/Flash90)

Israel dumps more chemicals on its fields than does any other Western nation, some of them toxic mixtures that were banned for destroying the ozone layer, Maariv reported on Wednesday.

According to a Central Bureau of Statistics survey of agricultural practices from 2008 to 2010, Israel used more pesticides than any other country in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a forum of 34 mostly Western nations. The figures suggest that fruit and vegetables in Israel may be among the most toxic of any Western country.

The survey found that Israel pours on 3.5 tons of pesticides for every square kilometer (0.386 square miles), a value 88 times higher than the lowest user in the OECD, Sweden, which uses just 40 kilograms for the same area.

The next highest user is Japan, with 1.5 tons per sq. km., less than half of the Israeli volume, though Japan leads in pesticide use when taking population into account, with 4.95 tons per thousand citizens. Israel is second in line with 0.98 tons per thousand citizens, whereas the Swedish use just 0.11 tons per thousand citizens.

Every year some 7,000 tons of pesticides are sold in Israel, in 670 different mixtures, not including preservatives and chemicals to boost and enhance vegetable growth.

In addition to the danger posed to consumers, substances sprayed on fields in Israel may also cause harm to the environment. The Montreal Protocol, an international treaty designed to protect the ozone layer, calls for phasing out the use of methyl-bromides that are present in 570 of the pesticides sold in Israel.

According to Maariv, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is revising regulations for the use of pesticides and is aiming to introduce new, safer, products. The ministry is also actively promoting environmentally friendly methods for dealing with pests that are chemical-free, such as insect traps and devices to disperse flies.


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