Greenpeace-study reveals pesticide cocktails in apple production


Hamburg/Amsterdam, 16 June 2015 – Cocktails of pesticides used in industrial apple production are contaminating soils and surface water in Europe, with up to thirteen different types of chemicals detected in one sample. “The Bitter Taste of Europe’s Apple Production and how Ecological Solutions can Bloom”, released by Greenpeace today, [1] includes testing results of 85 samples taken in twelve European countries. Two thirds of water and soil samples contained pesticide residues, with 70% of the pesticides identified having very high overall toxicity to humans or wildlife. The report also demonstrates the practicability of ecological apple production without contaminating soil and water, and showcases how ecological farming methods can be applied in practice. Greenpeace calls on EU governments to ban synthetic-chemical pesticides from Europe’s fields, while supporting and scaling up innovative ecological farming solutions.

Christiane Huxdorff, Ecological Farming Campaigner at Greenpeace Germany says: “The current system of industrial apple production leaves a bitter taste as it is poisoning our soil and water, exposing people and the environment to cocktails of synthetic chemical pesticides. The massive use of pesticides in apple production is another symptom of a broken system of industrial agriculture. The EU is one of the world’s leading apple producers and consumers, so the importance of producing apples without poisoning our water and soil becomes clear. Moving away from a farming system highly dependent on chemicals is also essential to protect our farmers and their families who are directly exposed.”

The report consists of two parts and provides an overview of apple production in Europe. The first part is a comprehensive analysis of 36 water and 49 soil samples, collected from conventionally managed apple orchards in twelve European countries [2] during April 2015 and analysed for pesticide residues. The samples represent a “snapshot” of the situation at the start of blossoming. The results show that a complex array of pesticides can be detected in soils and waters associated with apple orchards in Europe. Across the entire set of the 85 samples taken, a total of 53 different pesticides were found, with 78% of the soil samples and 72% of the water samples containing residues of at least one of these pesticides. The most frequently found pesticide in soil and water is the fungicide boscalid (soil 38% and water 40%). Seven of the pesticides found are not currently approved at EU level but can be used with exceptional member states’ authorisations. These residues may be present as a result of historical use of these pesticides, although in one case could have resulted from degradation.

In the second part of the report, Greenpeace showcases several ecological solutions used in apple growing to reduce the use of chemical pesticides. A balanced agro-ecosystem is the key factor for ecological apple production since it increases resilience to pests and diseases while benefiting beneficial organisms. Fertilisation, soil management and cover crops for instance improve apple trees’ growth and decrease the susceptibility of the trees and their fruits to diseases. A stable agro-ecosystem also benefits natural enemies, such as predatory wasps, by improving the availability of pollen and nectar.

Herman van Bekkem, Ecological Farming Campaigner at Greenpeace Netherlands, adds: “The good news is that ready-to-use solutions already exist and are being implemented by thousands of ecological farmers all over Europe. In order to scale up good practices, also retailers have to take their responsibility and start paying ecological prices to farmers, enabling them to shift to ecological farming. Furthermore politicians must act and scale up ecological farming by shifting subsidies from industrial agriculture where they belong – to ecological farming practices, supporting healthy farmers protecting soils and water to produce healthy food for healthy people.”

The Greenpeace online platform is highlighting the failures and impacts of industrial agriculture and invites people to join the food movement to help fix the broken industrial system by completing personal challenges.

Notes to editors:
[1] “The Bitter Taste of Europe’s Apple Production and how Ecological Solutions can Bloom” a co-publishing project between Greenpeace International Science Unit and Greenpeace Netherlands.
Cotter, J; Reuter, W. (2015) “The Bitter Taste of Europe’s Apple Production. An Analysis of Pesticides in European Apple Orchards”
Cotter, J; Johnston, P.; Santillo, D.; van Bekkem, H.; van der Sterren, M. (2015) “How Ecological Solutions can Bloom. Ecological Pest Management and Alternative Control For The Most Important Diseases And Pests in Apples”

[2] The 12 EU countries from which the soil and water samples were taken were: Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, and Switzerland.

[3] Allsopp, M; Huxdorff, C; Johnston, P; Santillo, D; Thompson, K (2015) “Growing Concerns – Pesticides and Health” Greenpeace International Science Unit Technical Report

Please download the full report “The Bitter Taste of Europe’s Apple Production and how Ecological Solutions can Bloom” here or mail to for other related assets
Christiane Huxdorff – Ecological Farming Campaigner at Greenpeace Germany : +49 171 60 35 529,
Herman van Bekkem – Ecological Farming Campaigner at Greenpeace Netherlands : +31 6 29 00 11 40,
Christine Gebeneter – EU Communications Coordinator Ecological Farming at Greenpeace Netherlands, +31 62 9 00 11 46,