Are chemically injected fruits healthy?

Chemical club on the potato field

Do we really only want to eat standardized potatoes?

Defoliant used to be used in the Vietnam War. Today, farmers spray them on the fields just before harvest to produce potatoes that meet the requirements of the market. The most poisonous of these agents is diquat. The peel strength of new potatoes and a longer shelf life - these are properties that the trade wants from potatoes that grow in fields in the EU. The contact herbicide Diquat makes these wishes come true: by blocking photosynthesis in the plant, all above-ground parts of the plant die off, similar to glyphosate.

The potatoes just ripen. They can be harvested three weeks later. The active ingredient is contained in several herbicides and, according to a recommendation by the Luxembourg Chamber of Agriculture, is applied several times at intervals of several days. The first spraying takes place when the first potatoes are about 6 cm tall.

In this way, around 250 tons of Diquat land in the fields in Germany every year. Can residues of Diquat be detected in the potatoes? This is the question asked by a television team from 3sat. It had samples of potatoes and cabbage examined in a laboratory. The poison could be detected in all samples. A herb sample showed a particularly high value of 4 to 6 mg per kilogram.

0.01 mg of diquat was measured in the potato which belonged to the herb. Experts say that only a fraction of it gets into the gastrointestinal tract. The authorities argue that there are no limit values ​​for diquat, after all consumers would not eat it.

Effects on human health and nature

If you believe Peter Clausing, board member of the Pestizid Aktions-Netzwerk e. V., the active ingredient that accumulates in the soil is highly toxic for aquatic organisms and birds. It damages the nerves just like unborn life. In the past few decades there have been 13 fatal poisonings from Diquat in the UK alone.

What happens, asks the toxicologist, when the potential for accumulation of the soil, on which Diquat is constantly being spread, is at some point exhausted? Will the poison then wash into the groundwater or into the drinking water?

When pigs were injected with Diquat in an experiment, the animals exhibited symptoms reminiscent of Parkinson's disease. If it rains after a spray, the air warms up and the poison blows over the field borders via the water vapor the next morning and spreads in the area, it is possible that the residents will also inhale it.

Clausing fears that ingestion through the nose and lungs could cause symptoms in humans similar to those in pigs. However, this has not yet been scientifically investigated. A detailed investigation of all effects on humans and nature would be long overdue

According to an information paper from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Diquat is also used in bodies of water to control weeds that serve as fodder crops for waterfowl. The active ingredient causes lasting damage to aquatic organisms such as amphipods (amphipods) and daphnia (water fleas), it says. In addition, the poison causes serious skin and eye irritation, and acts as a poison when absorbed through the skin, inhaled, or ingested.

If you believe the Greens, 50 percent more pesticides are currently used on German fields than in 1995, although the active ingredients are becoming more and more toxic. Chemical-synthetic substances in agricultural landscapes are responsible for the fact that arable weeds disappear and, as a result, the population of butterflies, wild bees and many species of birds is declining.

Where the insects become extinct, other animals also lack food. Agricultural poisons are also responsible for the death of amphibians, as a 2013 study shows. Toads, frogs, amphibians etc. are particularly endangered by chemicals. For example, the yellow-bellied toad that lives in water is becoming increasingly rare.

Small potatoes fall through the grid

Potatoes that are placed on the market must meet certain requirements in terms of shape and size. Any other oddly shaped fruits that nature produces will be sorted out. The EU determines what a potato should look like and how big it should be - ideally 65 millimeters.

Potatoes of this size are not only best packaged, they are also particularly popular with consumers. Hardly any money is paid for smaller potatoes. Above all, these requirements put the smaller farms under pressure, which anyway have to compete with potato imports from southern countries.

Thousands of tons of fruit and vegetables are destroyed every year because they do not comply with the dimensions specified by the EU. According to a 2013 study by the Thünen Institute, potato losses in this country are around five percent. That corresponds to around 537,000 tons.

In Switzerland, more than half of the potato harvests are lost along the value chain. This is shown by a study from 2015 at the research institute ETH. 25 percent were sorted out at harvest, including those that did not meet the norm in size and weight.

In wholesale, 12 to 24 percent fell through the cracks. About one to three percent was lost in retail. With consumers, however, 15 percent ended up in the trash. The bottom line was that more than half of the harvest was lost. While discarded potatoes were still used as animal feed in agriculture or wholesalers, in private households they would be thrown in the garbage.

The scientists see possible solutions in the breeding of new varieties, for example. Above all, however, consumers would have to rethink their approach and also accept smaller or deformed potatoes.

Organic potato cultivation

Some organic farmers call their weeds weeds. And these are not "fought", but regulated, mostly mechanically, sometimes also thermally. But no matter how often it is hoed or groomed, there are always some wild herbs in bloom that defiantly remain in the field and delight one or the other wild bee. The secret lies in choosing the right variety and growing suitable catch crops with various types of grain and a high proportion of legumes.

These increase the fertility of the soil, which in turn provides an attractive habitat for numerous soil organisms. In addition, healthy soil produces healthy, unpolluted fruits.

If the herb has to be removed at all, this is done by a combination of flaking and flaming, can be found in the report on the use of various herb control methods for organic potatoes by the Lower Saxony Chamber of Agriculture. In addition to the weeds, the starch content in the potato is also regulated.

Of course, the easiest thing to do is to drive the 24-meter sprayer across the field a few times. But ultimately this is at the expense of people, animals, soil, air and groundwater. More and more agricultural toxins are gradually eroding our livelihoods. Consume more beautifully and faster for even more poisoned soils, bodies of water and ever less biodiversity in the agricultural landscapes?

In view of the decreasing biodiversity and increasing diseases of civilization, the question arises as to how long we can still afford the chemical destruction of nature. And do we really only want to eat standardized potatoes?

The nature that produces our food is diverse. It cannot be reduced to standard sizes. It takes a fundamental change in values ​​- among retailers, consumers and farmers alike. Potatoes, both large and small, deserve the same appreciation, as do the many other foods that normally end up in the trash.

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