What is Zero Pesticide Residue Label?
In response to the growing concerns over health, a collective of French companies got behind an initiative in the French market termed as zero-residue label.
The Zero Pesticide Residue Label is used on any fruit and vegetable containing no more than 0.01mg per kilo, the lowest quantifiable level, with independent tests. The "zero pesticide residue" is said to be the third pathway between conventional agriculture and organic farming.
Although, the first thing to know is that even food labeled “pesticide-free” is not truly free of pesticides. Pesticide residues are everywhere in the environment, and there’s no way to produce food on a large scale that contains no trace of these contaminants. Residues may also be present in foods at levels below the limits of widely used testing methods. “None detected” or “below quantifiable level” isn’t the same as “zero.”
The process differs from organic farming as it does allow use of crop protection chemicals, mineral fertilizers, bio-control products but in controlled and sparing quantities. The process adhere that fruits and vegetables have the right to grow on nutritious substrates.
The Zero Residue process commenced in France, in 2017 with the launch of Paysan de Rougeline's (Farmers of Southern France) zero-residue tomatoes and strawberries in the market. Since that time, more companies, from different regions of France and producing different items, joined the collective, including Blue Whale, an apple exporter located in Montauban; Océane, a Nantes-based cooperative growing tomatoes, cucumbers, lamb's lettuce and leeks; potato specialist Pomme Alliance from Orly; Larrère, a Landes-based carrot producer; Fruits et Compagnie, growers of stonefruit and topfruit in the Gard; and Lindor, a producer of golden apples in the Limousin.
In February of 2018 these fruit and vegetable producers across France joined the initiative and launched a new label guaranteeing the consumer a product free of pesticide residues. Companies belonging to the collective were dubbed Nouveaux Champs (like newcomer champions), and represented 10 per cent of French consumption, with a view to growing that proportion to 20 per cent within five years. Within a year of the launch of the label, 3,000 producers adopted it in France.
In 2018, 300,000 tonnes of fruit and vegetables were expected to be sold under the label, totaling 11 kinds of vegetable (including asparagus, onions, garlic, shallots and cress) and 12 fruits (including bananas, strawberries, raspberries, figs, kiwifruit, melons and mini-watermelons).
Achieving the target of zero pesticide residues is more costly for producers and involves more risk, requiring the use of resistant varieties, good agricultural practices, adapted production equipment, integrated biological protection and the management and enrichment of natural flora and fauna. For this reason, products bearing the label will command a premium.
The farmers who adopted this label avoid pesticides to the maximum by using nets, different agronomic techniques, crop rotations. They also favor varieties of potatoes, for example, that are more resistant than others. If they happen to use them, they do so sparingly and use pesticides that disappear once the fruit is ripe. In addition, they carry out lab analyses to guarantee that no traces are left at the end. If these analyses reveal traces of pesticide residues, the fruit or vegetable is downgraded.
However, some critics have argued that, to respond in such a way to suggestions that produce containing residues under the legal maximum level is unsafe, risks diminishing the perception of all non-zero-residue produce.
This year 2019, the “Nouveaux Champs” Collective is determined to make its voice heard at the Agricultural Show. This third way seduces consumers because the prices are situated between the classic and organic prices of fruits and vegetables.