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"We worry about eggs with fipronil when an apple can have 20 pesticides."

The French researcher Bertrand Pourrut participates in a congress that brings together at the University of Navarra a hundred experts on the "essay of the comet".

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Bertrand Pourrut
PHOTO: Manuel Castells
31/08/17 10:32 Laura Juampérez

"Without downplaying the significance of the event of eggs contaminated with the animal pesticide fipronil, the reality is that we are not dealing with a public health problem. In fact, we would have to eat 6 to 10 eggs a day for a long time for it to be harmful. However,an apple can have up to 20 different toxic substances in it and we eat it without knowing it". This was stated by the French researcher Bertrand Pourrut, an expert in Ecotoxicology at the University of Lille, on the occasion of an international congress held at the University of Navarra.

This meeting has brought together a hundred experts in the so-called essay of the comet, a very versatile technique to measure the damage caused by toxins, pollutants, food, etc. on DNA and its capacity for self-repair.

According to this specialist - who works together with groups from other countries to measure the effects of different pollutants (pesticides, heavy metals such as lead or copper, hydrocarbons, etc.) - there is evidence that most of these products commonly used in agriculture or gardening can affect not only our DNA, but can also act as hormone disruptors. "This means that they affect the functioning of our hormones, which can give rise to numerous health problems, and it is also very difficult to know exactly which product and in what quantity can be harmful, as different types are used together and in different proportions on the internship ."

In the opinion of the Gallic expert, this is the main difficulty to carry out a conclusive research in this field: "This problem would be comparable to alcohol consumption: it is recommended to use manager but we cannot control if a person drinks a glass of wine or 5 bottles, and if he mixes them with other drinks or drugs. Similarly, a garden fertilizer has an indicated proportion of product per liter of water, but many people use more thinking that it is better for the plant, or mix some products with others, without being aware that they are making an irresponsible use of a toxic product...".

0 km" agriculture

The area of work by Bertrand Pourrut - who is also Visiting Professor of Degree of Environmental Sciences + Biology at the University of Navarra - is precisely the analysis, through tests such as the comet, of the effect of toxic substances on the DNA of both plants and animals. "In the case of insecticides, above all, it is clear that if their purpose is to kill insects that damage crops, they can also affect us, since our neurotransmitters work in a similar way." "However, he adds, "to confirm this, we need a very long term programs of study deadline because, just as to assess the effect of tobacco on a smoker, here too, years of exhibition to these toxicants are necessary for potential DNA damage to lead to cancer, etc.".

In his opinion, the only way for consumers to ensure a more toxic-free diet is to resort to small-scale and local agriculture: "Extensive agriculture is doomed to die because it is unsustainable from the economic point of view -many products are derived from hydrocarbons and their price is increasingly high-, social and ecological -France spends several times the income from its agricultural activity to clean its rivers and fields of pollutants-", concludes the expert.