Raise awareness of environmental health issues in order to better protect our children and future generations.

13 April 2016

Cultivation of Strawberries

REPOSTED 31 May 2013:  

Image:  Dragonfly Earth Medicine
Imported strawberries are still appearing in supermarkets in Switzerland from February.  It's not certain that working conditions in Spain have improved all that much since this article was written in April 2011.  There is certainly a very serious environmental crisis:  the strawberry fields are sucking dry the area of Spain where most of the "red gold" fruit is cultivated.  Switzerland imports most of its out-of-season strawberries from Spain. This fruit is cultivated in vitro in central Spain then transported south for planting in soil sterilized by a chemical substance which Saddam Hussein used to kill populations in Kurdistan. The plants are grown on plastic which is dispersed into the environment or burned after harvest. The cultivation of strawberries requires enormous amounts of pesticides which contaminate drinking water and fresh water in a natural reserve for migratory birds. Most of the strawberry field workers are women who are poorly paid and live in unsanitary conditions. Many suffer from respiratory diseases and skin infections caused by exposure to the pesticides used to cultivate the strawberries.

The Swiss National Council, equivalent to the U.S. House of Representatives, has accepted an initiative to apply strict environmental and worker standards to food imports such as strawberries. This initiative was debated in the Swiss Parliament in June of this year.  On 8 June 2011, the Economic and Royalties Commission voted to adopt the motion proposed by the National Council on “Food Production:  Sociological and Ecological Conditions”. (10.3626 n).   The motion gave the Federal Council the right to ensure that the same importance was granted to social and environmental norms as to suppression of trade barriers during agricultural negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the conclusion of other international commercial agreements.  In other words, imports of foodstuffs could not be banned by Switzerland.

The Swiss negotiators at WTO have been trying for a long time to place the rules of WTO in accordance with those of the International Labor Office (ILO).  Thus the Swiss are working at the international level to have countries respect social and environmental conditions.

It was concluded that it was the responsibility of consumers to select imported foodstuffs that were produced under ethical social and ecological conditions. So, as usual, Government is passing responsibility to the consumer because it has its hands tied by international agreements.  We will thus have to return to educating consumers.

The cultivation of strawberries in the United States is no less toxic. Methyl iodide, a pesticide that is a known neurotoxin and endocrine disruptor, was used on strawberries and other food crops from 2007 up until March 2012.  Although no longer sold in the United States, this toxic fumigant, produced by the Japan-based company Arysta LifeScience, is still being used in many other countries (Mexico, Japan, Morocco, Turkey, New Zealand) under the brand name "MIDAS".  This type of chemical substance is particularly toxic to developing fetuses and children.  (Paragraph updated on 20 May 2012.)

UPDATE 29 September 2011:   Apparently, organic strawberries are also treated with toxic substances.  According to the Pesticide Action Network and several organic farmers in California, most organic strawberries are fumigated with millions of pounds of pesticides.  This problem stems from a loophole  in the definition of organic produce:  only the produce itself needs to be pesticide-free, meaning, that before the plant bears fruit, it can be fumigated and treated with all kinds of toxic chemicals.

UPDATE 6 October 2011:  One of the participants of the Wireless Safety Summit in Washington DC, 5-6 October 2011, organized by the Center for Safer Wireless, talked about her meeting with California senatorial staff concerning ionizing and non-ionizing radiation.  She mentioned that the University of California Berkeley Department of Nuclear Engineering has been testing food, soil and water in the United States for radionuclide levels from the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe.  Elevated levels of radionuclides have been found in produce such as spinach, kale and strawberries.  This is very worrying because California provides 80% of produce for the rest of the United States.

Authorities in the United States insist that there is no danger to public health or the environment from the Fukushima nuclear crisis.  The EPA discontinued its Fukushima radiation monitoring efforts, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says there is no danger to U.S. food or seafood and therefore no testing is necessary.

by Meris Michaels
(6 April 2011)

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