As anyone who has visited Turkey knows, the fruits and vegetables there taste, well, simply more like what fruits and vegetables should taste like. To anyone used to the mealy, flavorless tomatoes sold in American supermarkets, their first taste of a vine-ripened Turkish tomato is likely a revelation.
But a new report by Greenpeace's German branch could make that tomato and other Turkish fruits and vegetables a little less appetizing. From the Green Prophet blog:
Of 76 different fruits and vegetables recently evaluated, Turkish peppers contained the most excessive and dangerous amounts of pesticide chemicals, according to Food Without Pesticides, a new 26-page guide to European food released this week by Greenpeace Germany.
Turkish peppers topped the list of “most contaminated” produce in the guide, with an average of 24 chemical substances found in the specimens analyzed. In second place, with an average of 10 chemical substances, were Turkish pears. Nine chemical substances were found in Turkish pears, on average, putting them at third place.
Eleven different Turkish crops were rated, using 582 samples. The guide used a green/yellow/red light system to show its ratings, with a red light meaning that more than one-third of the samples had dangerous levels of chemicals in them.
Of all 23 major fruit-and-vegetable-exporting countries that were evaluated in the report, Turkey had the highest number of crops in the “red light” category. The study was conducted using fruit taken from retail and wholesale stores in Europe in 2009 and 2010, but it is unlikely that pesticide use has declined significantly in Turkey since then.
Pregnant women, sick people, and children are especially advised to avoid food in the “red light” category, according to Greenpeace.
The report did not single out Turkey as a pesticide offender, including other countries such India and Thailand. But Turkish officials have reacted angrily to Greenpeace's finding, with Minister of Agriculture Mehdi Eker accusing the report of being inspired by dark motives. Reports the Hurriyet Daily News:
Eker said his ministry was closely studying the report’s findings, that Turkey had a team of 7,500 agricultural experts on hand to inspect fruits and vegetables produced in the country and that Turkey followed both EU and World Health Organization (WHO) norms and directives in terms of pesticide usage.
“We have not received one complaint about our grapes from any EU country we export to,” Eker said, adding that “certain forces” were working to tarnish Turkey’s reputation.
These forces are those that are jealous of Turkey’s success in exports, Eker said. “I was shocked” by the report, Doğan news agency quoted him as saying, “These are slanders.”