Fruit and vegetables are healthy. Scientific research has shown that if people were to eat more fruit and vegetables there would be considerably fewer cases of cancer. However the most recent dietary survey conducted in the Netherlands (Voedselconsumptiepeiling, VCP-3) shows that the consumption of fruit and vegetables has declined considerably.
Residue policy of the fruit and vegetable sector
In 1997, 13 percent less vegetable were eaten than in 1987, and the consumption of fruit fell by as much as 16 percent. Young people, in particular, are eating less fruit and vegetables.
It is not only the government that keeps tabs on consumption patterns. The fruit and vegetable sector itself observes consumers’ buying behaviour. According to this research, purchases of vegetables increased somewhat in 1997 in comparison to 1996, while purchases of fruit declined. New and existing campaigns such as ‘healthy ideas’ and ‘live it up with fruit and vegetables’ will continue to support the healthy image of fruit and vegetables in the future. These campaigns also emphasise positive characteristics such as variety, quality and colourfulness.
Multi-year Plan Crop
This healthy image can sometimes be marred by reports about undesirable amounts of pesticides that may remain on the product. The effect that these pesticides can have on the environment is also a matter of concern. The sector, with the government, has formulated some objectives and set them out in the Multi-year Plan Crop Protection (Meerjarenplan gewasbescherming, MJP-G).
The aims of this plan include reducing the amount of pesticides used, reducing the degree to which they enter the environment, and reduced reliance on chemicals. From the annual reports of progress with the Multi-year Plan Crop Protection, it appears that sufficient progress has been made in reducing the use of insecticides and soil disinfectants, but that too many pesticides are still being used for fungal infections. Many fungicides are used against Phytophthora in potatoes, rot in flower bulbs and fruit scab.
Early warning systems
The Dutch Organisation for Agriculture and Horticulture (Land- en tuinbouworganisatie Nederland, LTO-Nederland) has drawn up a plan for potato growing which should enable better crop protection against Phytophthora and with less chemicals in the near future. One important component of this plan is to develop warning systems. Early warning of infection can mean that only a limited quantity of fungicides is needed to combat it.
Protocols have also been developed to make the use of the chemicals more effective. Both warning systems and protocols correspond closely to the second phase of the Multi-year Plan Crop Protection.
The Dutch Organisation for Agriculture and Horticulture also compiles an overall register of pesticides and is considering the development and introduction of a map of environmental threats. The organisation is also preparing to establish a fund, along with the manufacturers of pesticides and the government, to support the authorisation of pesticides for use in the minor crops.
At present it is not commercially attractive for a manufacturer of pesticides to apply to the Board for the Authorisation of Pesticides for certification for minor crops. The Pesticide Act states that third parties can also submit applications for authorisation. The costs involved would be paid from the fund for applications of pesticides in minor crops.
In addition to the problem of minor crops, it is also very important for the sector that the packet of pesticides that are available remains sufficiently broad. From recent research carried out by the Plant Protection Service, it appears that a substantial number of pesticides could disappear following re-evaluation. This is related to environmental issues. One alternative to resolve the tension between minimising environmental damage and keeping a broad package of chemicals available is to make pesticides available on prescription.
Experience with this prescription system was built up in 1997 with dichlorvos. This chemical is now available only after an independent expert from the Plant Protection Service has confirmed the diagnosis and found that dichlorvos is necessary. A similar system could also be applied to other pesticides in the near future.