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Measurements show: Pesticides pollute the air in South Tyrol

by Leo Frühschütz (comments: 0)

Agriculture consultant Christine Vogt installing a passive collector
Agriculture consultant Christine Vogt installing a passive collector © Environmental Institute Munich

In the Vinschgau region of South Tyrol, the wind blows pesticides from conventional orchards even to remote places. This is the result of a study by the Munich Environmental Institute.

For its study, the institute had chosen four locations: a protected garden in the village of Mals, an organic orchard in the middle of conventional plantations, another organic farm and a remote side valley without orchards. The institute set up two passive collectors at each location, where organic pollutants suspended in the air can accumulate. The collectors were replaced every three weeks and sent to the laboratory for analysis.

Pesticide finds show considerable potential for distribution

From mid-March to at least the end of August 2018, a total of 20 different active substances were found in the collectors, six of which were pesticides at all sites: Fluazinam, Captan, Phosmet, Chlorpyrifosmethyl, Dithianon and Imidacloprid. "This indicates intensive use and considerable potential for airborne spread," writes the Environmental Institute in its study's summary.

According to the Environmental Institute, many of the pesticides found in the air in the Vinschgau region "pose a considerable risk to humans and the environment". The insecticide thiacloprid, for example, is classified as toxic to reproduction and harmful to the unborn child and is probably carcinogenic.

Difficult conditions for organic farms

The Environmental Institute found the highest levels of pollution in the collectors on the two organic farms, which themselves do not use any pesticides. "Our results show how difficult the conditions are for organic farms in the vicinity of intensively managed conventional apple orchards," said Karl Bär, agricultural policy officer at the Environmental Institute and head of the measurement project. Residents and holidaymakers in the immediate vicinity of the plantations are also demonstrably exposed to pollution.

"We found six active substances in a side valley at more than 1600 metres above sea level, several kilometres away from the nearest orchards," said Bär. "If you look at the approval reports of the European Food Safety Authority, this should be impossible. For four of these substances, EFSA concludes that they only enter the air in negligible quantities and decompose quickly. This assessment can therefore obviously not be correct," Bär concluded.

This year, the Environmental Institute, together with the Bündnis für enkeltaugliche Landwirtschaft (Engl.: Alliance for farming suitable for grandchildren), will test the air for pesticide residues at around 200 locations in Germany.



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