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Increasing transparency around our pesticide use

Senior Director for Sustainable Business Chris Brown on why we’re releasing test results on levels of pesticides…

By Chris Brown

November 28, 2019 08:00am
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Pesticides do an important job. They are used to protect crops against insects, weeds, fungi and other pests, and play a role in improving yields, which is particularly important as the world’s population continues to grow and demand for food rises.

However, there are concerns that their overuse is damaging insect populations and biodiversity. We share those concerns.

So today, to increase transparency for our customers, we’re reporting our test results on the amount of pesticide traces found on fruit, vegetables and salads in the last year.

Asda has a history of leading the way in providing transparency for its customers. We were the first retailer to publish the sources of all of our wild-caught fish and the first to extend this to cover all farmed fish too. We also report publicly on levels of antibiotic use on our supplier farms and provide details of both our first-tier and second-tier clothing suppliers.

We’re honest that we don’t have all the answers, but we hope that increased transparency across the industry will provide a greater focus and faster progress. So we hope that our competitors will join us in sharing this information.

There are a number of things that we're already working on to support our farmers and growers to reduce pesticide use, while maintaining a good yield of the crops that their livelihoods rely on.

For instance, we've already restricted the use of the most harmful chemicals, including those on the World Health Organisation 1A and 1B lists, and those covered by the Rotterdam convention or Stockholm convention.

We are working directly with farmers on initiatives such as planting biodiversity plots on the unused headlands around fields at a number of farms. Early results indicate these plots have been beneficial in increasing the number of predatory insects and pollinator species, reducing the need for farmers to use as many chemical protection products.

We also support our farmers in the use of Integrated Pest Management (IPM). IPM aims to prevent and/or suppress harmful organisms by the use of rotations, cultivation techniques, resistant/tolerant varieties and high health seeds, correct fertiliser, liming and irrigation.

We have visibility of more than 2500 test results either directly or from suppliers and in 2018, 90% of samples contained below half of the legal Maximum Residue Limit (MRL), which is set by the European Union and based on acceptable daily intake levels from the World Health Organisation and UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Of these, 42% contained no traces at all, including 29% of all salad samples.

The remaining 10% of samples had between 50 and 100% of the maximum levels, with fruit – at 3% - having the highest number of samples in this range.

You can read our full report here.

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