Food engineer and writer Bülent Şık announced last week that some fresh foods, such as grapefruit, madalina and orange, exported from Turkey to EU countries, were rejected because they contain chlorpyrifos, based on RASFF (Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed) data.
The agricultural poison called chlorpyrifos is found in foods (tangerine, lemon, grapefruit…) exported to EU countries from Turkey. Products are rejected. #Chlorpyrifos It is very harmful to the nervous system in children and is prohibited in the EU. It is used in our country. @TCTarim do you have anything to say? pic.twitter.com/GMjsEVZ2IC
— Bülent ŞIK (@bulentilgaz) November 27, 2021
This pesticide, which is banned by many countries, including European Union countries, Canada and the US Environmental Protection Agency, has been detected in incredibly high amounts in these foods exported from Turkey.
So what is chlorpyrifos and why is it still widely used in Turkey?
Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate insecticide, acaricide and miticide primarily used to control foliage and soil-borne insect pests. So it’s a chemical pesticide.
Originally by the Nazis during World War II. Developed during World War II for use as a nerve agent, this chemical is known to pass easily from mother to fetus and has been linked to a wide variety of serious medical problems, including maldevelopment, Parkinson’s disease, and certain types of cancer.
People can be directly inhaled or exposed through dusts of airborne chlorpyrifos from nearby fields to homes and schools. A 2014 report by the California Department of Public Health listed chlorpyrifos among the top 10 pesticides most commonly used on fields within a mile of schools in the state.
A Columbia University study found decreases in full-scale IQ and working memory in seven-year-olds exposed to small amounts of chlorpyrifos prior to birth. Another study by the same group concluded that three-year-olds with greater prenatal exposure to chlorpyrifos were more likely to experience developmental delays, attention problems, ADHD problems, and pervasive developmental disorders.
In addition, exposure to very small concentrations can be lethal for highly sensitive animals to chlorpyrifos. The EPA notes that a single application of chlorpyrifos poses significant risks, especially to endangered species. Fish, amphibians, birds, reptiles and small mammals, as well as bees and other beneficial insects, are highly vulnerable to strong chemical pesticides.
Chlorpyrifos is ‘moderately’ persistent in the soil and can take weeks to years to break down. This chemical can also be stored in the fatty tissue of fish by mixing with rivers, lakes and streams. According to the National Water Quality Assessment Program in the US, chlorpyrifos has contaminated surface water in urban and agricultural streams at levels potentially harmful to aquatic life.
The use of chlorpyrifos is banned in many countries. It was banned completely in EU countries in 2019, and in the US last summer. Bülent Şık states that there is no logical explanation for why the use of this chemical, which threatens the health of children and farmers, is not prohibited in Turkey.
“The Ministry of Agriculture has a really incomprehensible attitude. When it was banned in Europe in 2016, the Ministry took a similar decision here as well. Right decision. But unfortunately, there are no sanctions for such decisions taken in Turkey. Because when that decision is examined, it will be seen that it should be removed from the market together with the ban decision. Of course, it would be destroyed in accordance with the procedure.
The problem is that this substance is detected in the studies carried out on the market after 2016, especially in laboratories where exported products from our country are checked. This means: This chemical continues to be used in agricultural production. Since it is widely used in products; It is very common, it means it is widely used in the market.”