'Israel uses more pesticides than any OECD country'
Agriculture Ministry: CBS report doesn’t take into account significant decrease of pesticides in recent years.
Farmer spraying pesticides Photo: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman
Israeli farmers use the largest amount of active chemical pesticides per
agricultural dunam out of all OECD countries, a Central Bureau of Statistics
survey has revealed.
The report, titled “Survey of Pesticides in
Agriculture 2008- 2010,” sent questionnaires to 90 companies for the purpose of
identifying sales and imports of chemical agricultural pesticides approved by
the Agricultural Ministry for the years 2008 through 2010, a CBS statement said.
Designed to help identify trends and processes of marketing pesticides, the
survey looks at both the data of Israel and other comparable countries. Out of
all Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development member countries,
Israeli farmers on average use 3.5 tons of pesticides per 1,000 cultivated
dunams (100 hectares), while the next highest number belongs to Japan, at 1.55
tons per 1,000 dunams, according to CBS.
In the years 2008-2010, between
6,600 and 7,300 tons of active ingredient pesticides were purchased or imported
each year, the survey said.
Throughout the years, quantities of active
materials sold to various destinations rose and fell, with a 9 percent drop from
2008 to 2009 and then a 2% rise from 2009 to 2010. The primary usages of the
pesticides are for fungi and bacteria elimination, soil sterilization and the
removal of weeds, insects and mites – which together constitute 90% of the
reasons these chemical preparations are purchased.
In 2010, 569 chemical
preparations were sold, and of these 165 were sold to eradicate insects and
mites, 141 to eliminate fungi and bacteria and 129 to destroy weeds, the CBS
survey said. Looking particularly at pesticides sold for weed removal, there was
a sharp rise in sales of 29% in 2009 but a drop of 11% in 2010. Materials for
soil sterilization featured a sharp drop of 26% in the year of 2009 and then an
8% rise in 2010.
The amount of active chemical pesticides used in Israel
per 1,000 dunams of agricultural land – 3.5 tons – is significantly higher than
that of any other OECD country, with Japan coming in second at 1.55 tons and
Holland in third at 0.99 tons, according to the CBS. Looking at the amount of
active chemical pesticides used per 1,000 people, Japan takes the lead at 4.95
tons, with Israel in second at 1 ton and Hungary in third at 0.98.
response, the Agriculture Ministry stressed that monitoring the presence of
pesticide residues in fruits and vegetables is performed on a wide range of
levels – from on the field to in packaging rooms – and that all produce samples
are tested before making their way to supermarkets. Once the food arrives in the
markets, it becomes the supervisory responsibility of the Health
The current policies of the Agriculture Ministry involve
reducing the use of pesticides and in particular old-fashion chemicals like
organic phosphates, triazines and chloronated hydrocarbons. In their place, the
ministry encourages the use of what it calls “soft” pesticides, which are more
“The survey of the Central Bureau of Statistics
does not reflect the implementation of these policies in recent years,” the
ministry statement said.
From now through 2014, the trend of reduced
pesticide use will continue, especially because 30 different chemicals will be
banned in this time period, according to the ministry.
Every year, the
ministry performs between 600 and 1,000 spot checks of fresh agricultural
projects for the presence of pesticide residues, the ministry said. Huge
portions of the agricultural products produced in Israel are exported to and
accepted by the European market, the East and to the United States, the ministry
Meanwhile, a comparison between Israel and Sweden, Norway and
Finland – all of which achieved very low pesticide numbers on the CBS charts –
is unreasonable due to the very different and more challenging growth climate
Israel faces in terms of pests, the ministry said.
“The State of Israel
is a signatory to the Montreal Protocol, which aims to protect the ozone layer,
while limiting the use of harmful substances,” the ministry said. “In recent
years, there has been a decline in the use of pesticides, in all types of fruits
and vegetables tested. This can be attributed to the activity of
increased enforcement and monitoring performed by the ministry.”