EU survey finds half of French food has residues of pesticide

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The Independent Online

Traces of pesticides can be found on more than half of French vegetables, fruits and cereals, a European Union survey has revealed. One in 12 items – 8 per cent – had potentially dangerous levels.

France, which often claims to be leading "natural" food production in Europe, comes close to bottom of the survey on traces of pesticides on food. Only the Netherlands and Austria do worse.

Britain comes off relatively well, with less than 2 per cent – or one in 50 – food samples over the recommended pesticide safety level.

A French ecology pressure group – the Movement for the Rights and Respect of Future Generations – said on Monday that the survey contradicted claims that French agriculture followed a "traditional" approach to growing food. France is the second largest user of pesticides in the world, behind the United States, consuming some 100,000 tonnes a year. It is also the world's second largest agricultural exporter.

Pesticides can cause cancer, reduce fertility, and damage wildlife. The European Commission plans to halve by 2003 the 900 or so pesticidesused in the EU. The survey found there has been a steady rise in pesticide residues. In 1999, the last year studied, 4.3 per cent of samples in Europe had dangerous pesticide levels, compared to 3.3 per cent in 1998.