SERIOUS MONDAY: EXPOSURE TO TOXINS FOR ORGANIC VEGETABLES CONSUMERS

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Countless British consumers who have bought “naturally grown” vegetables recently may have been exposed to toxins far more powerful than those found in non-organic vegetables.

According to the Soil Association, almost 30 per cent of organic farmers used copper fungicides in their fight against the dreaded potato blight during 2007.

An expert at Edinburgh University says copper compounds are 1000 times more toxic than the fungicides used on non-organic farms and some national newspapers have sensationalised the story.

But the Soil Association says that despite last year being the worst for potato blight in 50 years, two-thirds of its organic farmers managed to cope without using copper by growing blight resistant crops, the use of crop rotation and the burning or chopping of infected vegetables.

Last year, it says, only 85 out of 300 growers asked for special permission to use the copper fungicide which is allowed under Soil Association rules when a farmer can show evidence of a major disease threat to their crops.

And it stresses that the amount used by organic farmers is tiny compared to that used on non-organic farms where it can be routinely applied as a soil conditioner.  It’s also important to point out that the fungicide was used only on potatoes and not other vegetables.

The Soil Association permits only four pesticides for use as a last resort by organic growers compared with the 311 chemicals that are available to non-organic farmers.

However, it is rumoured that the EU is planning a ban on the use of copper following concerns that the heavy metal can cause liver disease.

Susan

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