Farmers urge government to set up pesticide testing lab
Only local produce should be sold at the Farmers' Market
Farmers called on the government to urgently set up a well-equipped laboratory to test local produce for pesticides during a meeting with Agriculture Parliamentary Secretary Clint Camilleri.
The absence of an accredited laboratory system is negatively affecting the livelihood of farmers who must 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.
In 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 presented a list of recommendations to address the situation.
They also called for support to tackle the difficulties they faced in the agriculture sector and 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, attended by President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, the farmers also called on the government to urgently invest in a proper labelling and certification system that can also trace the products’ country of origin.
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, Mario Gerada, chair of the National Hub for Ethnobotanical Research, said.
“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.
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.
In the policy document 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.
All produce — both local and imported — that is available from any outlet or vegetable truck, should be labeled, traceable and identifiable as such, both for regulatory authorities and the consumer, the farmers urged.
They also recommended that the Government’s Farm, L-Għammieri, should once again become a centre for research and dialogue in partnership with the farmers themselves.
L-Għammieri 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.
Farmers maintain 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.
“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,” Mr Gerada said.