Traces found in two in every three loaves as experts call for more research into impact on health
Two in every three loaves of bread sold in the UK contain pesticide residues, according to a new analysis of government data by environmental campaigners. Tests on hundreds of loaves also showed that 25% contained residues of more than one pesticide.
The official tests are carried out by the government’s expert committee on pesticide residues in food (Prif) and the levels found were below “maximum residue level” (MRL) limits. The Prif experts concluded: “We do not expect these residues to have an effect on health.”
But Nick Mole, at Pesticide Action Network UK (Pan UK) and an author of the new report, said MRLs only indicate whether the pesticides had been applied to crops in the amounts permitted. “They are nothing to do with people’s health whatsoever,” he said. “There is the possibility of harm from the repeated ingestion of low doses of pesticides and no one has done research on the impact of the cocktails of pesticides we are all exposed to. We are all being experimented on without our consent.”
A major study on the differences between organic and conventional food reported by the Guardian on Friday concluded that pesticides were found four times more often on conventional fruit, vegetables and cereals. “If you want to avoid pesticides, the only sure way to minimise them is eating organic,” said Mole.
Pan UK analysed the pesticides residues reported by Prif in both supermarket own-brand loaves and top brand-name loaves. It found that 63% of the loaves analysed in 2013 contained traces of at least one pesticide and that contamination has run at these levels for at least a decade. The most frequently detected pesticide was glyphosate, a common weedkiller. The next most common were chlormequat, a plant growth regulator, and malathion, an organophosphate insecticide.
The chemicals were found in the bread significantly more frequently than in other foods, where on average 40% of products contain residues.
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Proposals for national food strategy calls for UK farming ‘revolution’ in response to climate change and food security (2010)
Britain must grow more food, while using less water and reducing emission of greenhouse gases, to respond to the challenge of climate change and growing world populations, the environment secretary, Hilary Benn, said yesterday.
“Food security is as important to this country’s future wellbeing, and the world’s, as energy security. We need to produce more food. We need to do it sustainably. And we need to make sure what we eat safeguards our health,” he said.
Launching the government’s food strategy for the next 20 years with a speech to the Oxford Farming Conference, he proposed a consumer-led, technological revolution to transform UK farming.
“We know that the consequences of the way we produce and consume our food are unsustainable to our planet and to ourselves,” he said. “We know we are at one of those moments in our history where the future of our economy, our environment, and our society will be shaped by the choices we make now.”
He said consumers, rather than retailers, should lead by buying “greener” food, wasting less and growing more of their own: “People power can help bring about a revolution in the way food is produced and sold.”
Food businesses, supermarkets and manufacturers would follow consumer demand for food that was local, healthy and had a smaller environmental footprint – just as consumers had pushed the rapid expansion of Fairtrade products and free range eggs in the last decade, Benn said.
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Soil Association Certification and China’s organic certification body, Organic Food Development Centre (OFDC), have entered into a unique partnership that makes it cheaper and simpler for the UK’s organic businesses to export to China.
Demand for organic products in China is growing rapidly, with the market estimated to be worth USD 7.8 billion by 2015 , indicating that China’s consumers are increasingly looking for food and products they can trust. The partnership will allow Chinese organic consumers to access more high quality UK organic produce, as well as enabling UK Soil Association certified organic businesses, who saw strong growth of 6% in 2013 , to export to this major market.
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