Europe

Concerns About Dimethoate Ban Among French Olive Growers

Following a ban on the use of the insecticide dimethoate in France, French olive growers are concerned about the risk of damage to olive trees by the olive fruit fly, and increasing production costs.

An olive grove in Provence, France (OOT File Photo).
May. 2, 2016
By Isabel Putinja
An olive grove in Provence, France (OOT File Photo).

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Fol­low­ing a ban on the use of the insec­ti­cide dimethoate in France, French olive grow­ers are con­cerned about the risk of dam­age to olive trees by the olive fruit fly, and increas­ing pro­duc­tion costs.

We can’t increase our prices, because if prices go up fur­ther, the aver­age con­sumer will not buy our oil.- Gen­naro de Benedit­tis, Union of Olive Grow­ers of Rous­sil­lon

In Feb­ru­ary, the French min­istry of agri­cul­ture announced a ban on the use of dimethoate due to health risks, a mea­sure that has also been taken by the gov­ern­ments of Spain and Italy. After France called for an EU-wide ban of the insec­ti­cide, the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion requested the Euro­pean Food Safety Author­ity (EFSA) to con­duct a risk assess­ment study on dimethoate. The results of the EFSA study pub­lished on April 12 con­cluded that, based on the lim­ited infor­ma­tion avail­able, the data are not suf­fi­cient to clearly exclude a con­sumer health risk,” and called for a com­pre­hen­sive review of max­i­mum residue lev­els.

Dimethoate is used on a vari­ety of crops, includ­ing olives, to com­bat the Drosophila Suzukii fruit fly. Since the ban, atten­tion has been focussed on the effects on the cherry crop. On April 21, the min­istry of agri­cul­ture announced an embargo on the sale in France of cher­ries from coun­tries where the use of the insec­ti­cide is per­mit­ted.

French farm­ers insist that alter­na­tives to dimethoate are not viable or too expen­sive, and fear that their liveli­hoods are threat­ened while con­sumers face higher prices.

Drosophila suzukii (Georgofili World)

Fol­low­ing con­cerns voiced by cherry grow­ers, French olive grow­ers are also wor­ried about the effects of the ban on their own crop and fear that it could only be a mat­ter of weeks before their trees could be rav­aged by the olive fruit fly. In response to the ban on the sale of cher­ries from coun­tries still using dimethoate, they have asked the min­istry of agri­cul­ture to include in the ban the sale of for­eign olive oil and olives treated with the insec­ti­cide.

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Rep­re­sent­ing the union of olive grow­ers of Rous­sil­lon, its pres­i­dent Gen­naro de Benedit­tis, told France Bleu Radio that other prod­ucts used to com­bat the fruit fly are much more expen­sive. As a result, the already large price dif­fer­ence between olive oil pro­duced in France and in Spain will increase dra­mat­i­cally. We can’t increase our prices, because if prices go up fur­ther, the aver­age con­sumer will not buy our oil,” he con­cluded.


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