BEIRUT — Outgoing Lebanese Minister of the Environment Dr Tony Karam warns that “the careless use of pesticides has been linked to cancer.” He emphasises “the necessity of taking action to limit the negative effects of pesticides, which only become apparent over the long term.”
A recent study conducted by the Ministry of the Environment examined several types of fruits and vegetables in different parts of Lebanon. The results of the study revealed residues of pesticides in the majority of agricultural crops, at levels exceeding legal international limits. The study showed, for example, that strawberries contained a pesticide residue level of 40 percent, lemons 32 percent, tomatoes 30 percent, cucumbers 49 percent, limes 14 percent, peaches 33 percent and zucchini 100 percent.
An agriculture expert explained that “the root of the problem lies in the amount of pesticides used, their quality and the period they are applied for.” He called on farmers to “respect the time limits printed on pesticide packaging before the end of which crops cannot be picked. Currently however, farmers seeking profit pick their crops before the end of this period. As a result, they sell poisoned produce to consumers.”
Parliamentarian Mohammed Qabbani said the country was “facing a crime against the population as a whole. What is needed is the immediate declaration of a state of emergency by the Ministry of Agriculture, with the cooperation of other relevant ministries. Parliament should then immediately pass a food safety law. Prosecutors and monitoring bodies should take effective action to find the responsible parties, designate appropriate sanctions and take deterrent measures.”
Outgoing Minister of Agriculture Elias Skaff downplayed the danger, asserting that “any damage to Lebanese produce is a normal matter and occurs all over the world. The ministries must take responsibility, and it is the responsibility of the Ministry of Agriculture to closely monitor the issue of chemical pesticides.”