Hello, my name is Ragnor. I am a scientist at the European Food
Safety Authority. I am here to talk to you about pesticides
and how they get into our food. Pesticides are used to protect
crops from disease and infestation. They are considered
important for protecting harvests and ensuring our food supply. All pesticides contain active substances. These are the essential ingredients
that enable them to function. This can be a chemical or
it can be a microorganism, such as a bacterium or a virus. In some cases the chemical works
by confusing insects, in other cases they make the crop
less palatable for pests. But commonly they work by killing
the damaging insects, weeds or fungi. Pesticides can be widely
distributed in the environment, where they could be harmful to
plants and animals. In some cases small amounts called residues
can find their way into the food we eat. These residues could be harmful if
they exceed certain levels. There are many ways in which
pesticide residues can get into our food. For example, residues in treated crops
can be carried from the field
to the food on our table. Residues can get into the
water supply, or they can contaminate soil or animal feed and so find
their way into our food indirectly. A pesticide can only be put
on the European market if it has been scientifically
established that it can be used safely. This means that it can be used
without harmful effect on humans or animals and that it does not
damage the environment. Crucially, the amount of pesticide
residue in food must be as low as possible,
and the food must be safe to eat. This is maintained through
Maximum Residue Levels which are legally
enforced and monitored. In Europe, around 67,000
food samples are analysed for pesticide residues each year. The European Food Safety Authority
works together with scientists from across Europe to assess the evidence and
provide independent scientific advice. Based on this advice, the European
Commission decides whether an active substance is approved
or not approved. In 1993, before the current
approval process, there were around 1000 active
substances on the market. Of these, the European Commission
approved some 250. The remainder are no longer
on the market; this helps to ensure
the safety of our food.