Turkish Agriculture Minister hits hard at Greenpeace claim

Turkish Agriculture Minister hits hard at Greenpeace claim

ISTANBUL-Hürriyet Daily News
Turkish Agriculture Minister hits hard at Greenpeace claim

A recent Greenpeace report says grapes, pears and pepper exported from Turkey to Germany between 2009 and 2010 contained dangerous amount of pesticides.

Turkish Agricultural Minister Mehdi Eker reacted strongly yesterday to a Greenpeace report claiming that Turkey’s fruits and vegetables contain traces of pesticides which are harmful for human consumption.

Ten years ago, Turkey was producing 30 million tons of fruit and vegetables and using 50,000-56,000 tons of pesticides but is now producing 40 million tons while using 20,000 tons fewer pesticides, Eker said at a meeting in the Mediterranean province of Antalya.

“Turkey uses far fewer pesticides today, and we have reduced our usage to around 35,000 tons,” Eker said, adding that 75 varieties of pesticides had been outlawed and that today a prescription was required to purchase pesticides.

The Greenpeace report claims that concentrations of pesticides that pose a risk to health were particularly common in bell peppers, pears and table grapes from Turkey.

Eker said his ministry was closely studying the report’s findings, that Turkey had a team of 7,500 agricultural experts on hand to inspect fruits and vegetables produced in the country and that Turkey followed both EU and World Health Organization (WHO) norms and directives in terms of pesticide usage.

“We have not received one complaint about our grapes from any EU country we export to,” Eker said, adding that “certain forces” were working to tarnish Turkey’s reputation.

These forces are those that are jealous of Turkey’s success in exports, Eker said. “I was shocked” by the report, Doğan news agency quoted him as saying, “These are slanders.”

‘Report speaks for itself’

Deniz Sözüdoğru, communications officer for Greenpeace, said the numbers in the report spoke for themselves, but added in a written response to the Hürriyet Daily News that the report was not aimed at Turkey. “This is not about Turkish exporters, as it is being portrayed in Turkey. While Thailand and India are the countries that export the most products with pesticides, EU countries and Turkey also have heavy pesticide usage,” said Sözüdoğru.

More than 40 percent of the samples from India and 30 percent of the samples from Thailand exceeded maximum permissible pesticide limits, according to the Greenpeace report.

The report was prepared by officials from the German state food inspection authorities, Sözüdoğru said, adding that the data was from the period 2009-2010 and focused on over 22,000 fruits and vegetables coming into Germany from 80 different countries. The study was thus not meant to target Turkey or Turkish exporters per se, as Turkish Agricultural Ministry officials claim and also included fruits and vegetables like grapes, cherries and apples from Germany, which contained pesticides she said.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s Agriculturalists Foundation head İbrahim Yetkin said that Turkey was one of the countries in the world that used the least amount of pesticides.

Deniz Gürgen from Istanbul contributed to this report.

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