Large quantities of low-grade and extremely toxic pesticides – which are banned in the rest of Europe, Australia and the USA – are being illegally imported into Greece, posing a risk to farmers who use the chemicals and to consumers who buy fruit and vegetables bearing their traces, it was revealed yesterday. These pesticides, favored by many farmers as they are up to 30 percent cheaper than better-quality chemicals, are circulating on the market thanks to extensions that have been granted by earlier ministerial decisions, sources say. But the pesticides pose a real health risk to farmers, according to studies which show the cancer rate in agricultural areas of western Greece to be 40 percent higher than in other areas. This could be because only one in 100 farmers uses a protective mask when spraying their crops, the Geotechnical Observatory says. Meanwhile, the government has called for a change to the system of checking agricultural products before they are exported after consignments of fruit and vegetables arrived in Germany bearing traces of pesticides several times higher than the maximum level prescribed by the European Union. Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis, who is responsible for exports, has reportedly sent a request to the Agricultural Development Ministry that future inspection of exports be conducted by specialist scientists who would bear the responsibility for the quality of the produce leaving the country.