Government is urged by farmers to set up pesticide testing lab

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Government is urged by farmers to set up pesticide testing labIn a meeting held today with the Agriculture Parliamentary Secretary Clint Camilleri, farmers called on the Government to urgently set up a well-equipped laboratory to test local produce for pesticides.

They highlighted the fact that the absence of an accredited laboratory system is negatively affecting the livelihood of farmers.

The farmers argued that they have to “wait for months on end to receive feedback from the tests on pesticide residue from laboratories abroad, which only serves to sow mistrust and confusion among consumers.”

A list of recommendations to address the situation were presented during a meeting with Mr Camilleri and officials within the Parliamentary Secretariat, the Farmers Market and the National Hub for Ethnobotanical Research within the President’s Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society.

The delegation also called for support to tackle the difficulties they faced in the agriculture sector. They pointed out that foreign produce was not facing the same stringent testing for pesticides, as local fruit and vegetables, therefore leading to unfair competition.

During the meeting, which was also attended by President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, the farmers called on the Government to urgently invest in a proper labelling and certification system that can also trace the products’ country of origin.

Mario Gerada, Chair of the National Hub for Ethnobotanical Research, said, “these recommendations and policy document follow a number of consultation meetings we have held with farmers and farmers’ cooperatives after a series of damning reports emerged in the media this year reporting the high levels of pesticides found on local produce.”

He added that, “the agriculture sector is important for society’s wellbeing and as a hub we wanted to create the space for farmers to have their say on this controversial subject – what emerged is the clear absence of information that is generating speculation and harming the industry.”

“Our meetings also exposed an urgent need for transparent structures that guide farmers and the importance of addressing inconsistencies in the existing system to ensure we have genuine, healthy local produce for all,” Mr Gerada added.

He continued by saying that “the hub has been instrumental in working with farmers and their cooperatives to bring to the fore the challenges they faced and ensure that government policies reflected these concerns.”

Contained in the policy document presented to Mr Camilleri, the farmers called for the creation of a certification system that identified the safe use of pesticides, without any additional costs for the farmers themselves, which was easily accessible and identifiable to consumers.

The farmers urged that “all produce – both local and imported – that is available from any outlet or vegetable truck, should be labelled, traceable and identifiable as such, both for regulatory authorities and the consumer.”

“The Government’s farm, L-Ghammieri, should once again become a centre for research and dialogue in partnership with the farmers themselves,” the farmers recommended. “It should be a place where problems were identified and addressed in an effective way.”

“It should become a space where farmers can present and discuss difficulties they encounter in their work, and it should provide a fund for foreign experts to share their knowledge and expertise when needed,” they said.

The farmers maintained that “only local produce should be sold at the Farmers Market and that an independent official should be employed to manage and oversee proper pricing of produce.”

Mr Gerada concluded by saying that, “we are calling on the Government to set up structured policy-based dialogues and decision-making processes within which farmers, in all of their diversity, can voice their concerns and influence those processes.”

Photo DOI/Kevin Abela: President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca (centre), flanked by President’s Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society director general Ruth Farrugia and Agriculture Parliamentary Secretary Clint Camilleri

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