Zucchini, strawberries, peppers… Do Spanish fruits and vegetables really contain more pesticides?

If some French people turn away from products of Spanish origin, not everyone should be put aside. France even records worse results than its neighbor on some of its productions.

I no longer buy any products that come from Spain and I am very careful with French products because they also use pesticides.», notes Karole, 73 years old, who favors fruits and vegetables from local producers or its “garden square» in the Côtes d’Armor. Like her, many French people remain wary of Spanish products accused of being sprayed with pesticides. In question, videos and photos which regularly circulate on social networks, showing phytosanitary products dumped on fields as far as the eye can see. Should we always be wary of Spanish productions? Which fruits and vegetables are most at risk? And what are the alternatives? Several experts reveal their observations and advice to Figaro.

Although it is difficult to obtain precise data on pesticide contamination, the magazine What to choose studied over several months more than 4,000 samples of 18 species of fruits and vegetables, produced in France, Europe and abroad. There conclusionpublished in issue 629 of November, is clear: “Contamination by the substances most at risk seems less frequent when production is local.» «We find between 25 and 75% fewer molecules recognized as potentially dangerous to health in artichokes, cucumbers, zucchini, peppers, salads, pears, bananas, broccoli and tomatoes planted on our soil than in those produced abroad.», Specifies the investigation.

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“A not very flattering essment” for France either

Spain, which produces large quantities of these foods, would therefore have a heavier hand on pesticides. “Contrary to what we observe on the other side of the Pyrenees, the greenhouses are stuck together over tens of square kilometers. Which makes production even more sensitive to phytosanitary problems», underlines What to choose Jan van der Blom, head of the technical department of the ociation of Fruit and Vegetable Producer Organizations in the province of Almería, Spain. Thus, 66% of Spanish artichokes contain pesticide residues, compared to 41% for those produced on French soil. Same observation for 83% of Spanish zucchini, compared to only 34% of French zucchini. Spanish eggplants are also affected by these differences, with 75% of them containing pesticide residues, compared to 52% for those grown in France. Note that these comparisons were made on conventional production, carried out between 2019 and 2021.

83% of Spanish zucchini contain pesticide residues, compared to 34% for those produced in France. What to choose

If France does a little better, “However, the results are not very flattering: 25% of its artichokes contain traces of pesticides considered “proven” to be dangerous by European health agencies.“, mentioned What to choose. Among the molecules, the media journalist, Elsa Abdoun, notably found “acetamiprid», an insecticide from the neonicotinoid family. Although the latter have been banned in French agriculture since 2018, there are, however, exemptions, including acetamiprid, authorized in “plant protection products, biocides and veterinary medicines“. For certain fruits, France even records worse results than its neighbors. In 2019, three quarters of peaches and cherries were contaminated by potentially dangerous residues, while all French production was affected. On the citrus side, those imported from Morocco, South Africa, Peru or Israel were more contaminated by residues dangerous to health than their Spanish counterparts.

All the blame is therefore not to be placed on Spain, as Jonathan Chabert, one of the spokespersons for the Peasant Confederation, points out: “There are no bad Spanish producers and nice French farmers, the situation is much more nuanced.» If there are similar regulations between the two countries, “these standards and equivalences lead to strengthening competition between farmers“. Added to this are policiesintra national» which adapt to climate issues, techniques or even the number of producers. With a milder climate, Spain does not use the same quantity of pesticides in winter as French producers. “The real question to ask is how do we move away from synthetic pesticides to protect farmers’ income?», asks Jonathan Chabert, who hopes “building solutions on a national, European and global level“.

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Consume “organic, local and seasonal”

If, for the moment, no clear answer is possible, it is above all the consumers who find themselves trapped. However, some tips can be applied to minimize the health risks of pesticides. Coralie Costi, dietitian nutritionist, recommends, for example, buying organic fruits and vegetables considered to be the most contaminated, namely strawberries, spinach, peaches, nectarines, gfruit, cherries, celery stalks, pears. , gs, apples, peppers and small chili peppers, salad, oranges, raspberries, carrots, tomatoes, eggplants and even potatoes. “You must also be careful with whole grains and legumes because pesticides nestle directly in their bark», explains Coralie Costi. Conversely, there are less risky species such as asparagus, broccoli, kiwis, onions, sweet potatoes, white cabbage, bananas, mushrooms, squash, cucumber, watermelon or turnips. .

I recommend to my clients to consume as much organic, local and above all seasonal food as possible.», insists the dietitian nutritionist. If she is well aware that organic products are more expensive on the shelves, she advises turning to “local fruits and vegetables, produced within a radius of 100 to 250 kilometers, which are generally less expensive“. Fruits and vegetables from imported and out of season are also less interesting from a nutritional point of view because they “are not picked when ripe» so that they do not rot during transport. Eating seasonally also allows you to obtain richer products.in nutrients, oxidants, vitamins and minerals“. “When it’s organic and seasonal, foods are 35% richer in oxidants», notes Coralie Costi.

Good actions should be adopted on a daily basis such as cleaning your fruits and vegetables, peeling them and cleaning them a second time. “The ideal is to use a vegetable brush and a little white vinegar in water», Says the specialist. Once cleaned, you can store your food in the freezer to use it a few months later. “For example, it will be the end of the garlic season, which is excellent for the immune system. So don’t hesitate to stock up.», Indicates Coralie Costi. If you are still hesitant about buying tomatoes in winter, it is better to turn to seasonal products: cabbage, beets, celery, squash, carrots, spinach, clementines, persimmons, pears, leeks, salads or Jerusalem artichokes. Something to delight your taste buds but also improve your health.

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