NEWS

Banned agricultural chemicals in use

Fertilizers that are banned in the EU, Australia and USA are still in use in Greece, following ministerial postponements «until stocks are used up,» a practice that endangers farmers and consumers alike. It also damages exports, as other countries will not tolerate food contaminated by banned substances. In rural areas, it is an open secret that farmers use products that are banned or past their expiry date because they are cheaper or believed to be more effective. On November 15, 2006, New Democracy Deputy Michalis Bekiris submitted a question in Parliament to Agricultural Development and Food Minister Evangelos Bassiakos about banned and expired agricultural chemicals in Greece. Bekiris told Kathimerini that such products were commonly used in rural areas, but it is very difficult to collect the kind of evidence that will stand up in court. Research shows that in rural areas of western Greece, the incidence of cancer is 40 percent higher than in urban areas. Panayiotis Ginopoulos, director of the oncology clinic at the Aghios Andreas Hospital in Patras, sees that statistic as a clear indication of the effect of agricultural chemicals. Replying to Bekiris’s question to the minister, Deputy Agricultural Development and Food Minister Alexandros Kontos said the ministry was doing what it could by monitoring the entire distribution process. In 2005, it documented 80 infringements (illegal importation, sale and use of agricultural chemicals) and fines totaling 269,434 euros were imposed; in 2006 there were 67 cases, which drew fines of 212,207 euros. Substances that have been banned abroad but are permitted in Greece until stocks run out include insecticides containing fenthion, which is used to combat the olive fruit fly and which has been banned in the USA and Australia. One can guess the outcome of tests on olive oil exported to those two destinations. The insecticide endosulfan is banned throughout Europe, but ministerial decision 20/6 of 2006 allows its use in Greece on apples, vines, beets, rock melon, watermelon and clover until June 2007, and pears, tomatoes and peppers till the end of the year. Endosulfan, say the experts, has a habit of appearing in other areas and on other products, causing great concern to farmers who export their produce. Sources say the Agricultural Development and Food Ministry held a meeting on the subject in early January but no solutions were found.