Warning on pesticides

Large quantities of banned pesticides are being illegally imported into Greece from Turkey and other countries and being used by farmers who may be putting consumers’ health at risk, Kathimerini has learned. The Greek Federation of Agronomists’ Association has discovered that the majority of the pesticides are being imported from Turkey but sizable quantities are also entering the country from Bulgaria and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The banned pesticides are mostly manufactured in China and are preferred by some farmers in Greece because they are up to 30 percent cheaper than the chemicals that have been approved by the European Union and are freely available on the market. Pesticides such as DDT, HCH and lindane have been banned by the EU and there are fears that their continued use could harm consumers but could also damage Greek exports. «The price we may pay and the consequences for Greek farming production because of the reckless use [of pesticides] that is going on is much higher when it comes to exports,» the head of the Macedonia-Thrace Association of Agronomists, Grigoris Nikolaidis, told Kathimerini. Sources said that the problem has been heightened by a change in the law in November 2005 which allows farmers to import pesticides from EU countries. Some experts have been pushing for the government to compile a list of approved pesticides, detailing their specific uses, which could be distributed to farmers. «The important factor is that Greek farmers have to be educated about using the correct amounts of pesticide and how long they need to spray their crops for,» Costas Fytianos, a chemistry professor at Thessaloniki’s Aristotle University, told Kathimerini. Fytianos recently headed a team of scientists that analyzed 125 samples of 13 different vegetables from Greece and abroad. They found traces of pesticides above legal levels in 38 percent of the vegetables and 96 percent of those were banned chemicals. Carrots, cucumbers, potatoes, peppers and tomatoes were the vegetables most likely to have traces of pesticides. A recent consumer study suggested that almost 89 percent of Greeks were worried about the effects that pesticides could have on their health.