In the Dutch TV show Eenvandaag, an item about plant protection products (pesticides) Paul Scheepers (SKU) and Violette Geissen (WU) were interviewed about the SPRINT project. 

What the mix of the many agents do to us and to the environment is still barely known. The NVWA is working with RIVM to develop a method to measure the "cocktail effect" of pesticides. The European Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (EFSA) has also recently presented an action plan for this, but specific research is lacking.

Research being carried out at the universities of Wageningen and Nijmegen is therefore awaited with great interest. In this so-called SPRINT research, researchers are looking at the effects of the combination of substances. "It is difficult to predict the behavior of mixtures. You have to test what those mixtures do and that is what we are going to look at more closely in SPRINT," says Paul Scheepers, toxicologist at Radboud UMC.



Consequences for our digestion

In doing so, Scheepers looks at the effects on the large amounts of bacteria found in our digestive system, the so-called microbiome. Those bacteria are needed to keep our stomachs healthy.

"We're going to see if we see links to exposure," he explains. "It's already known from laboratory tests that the microbiome can change with exposure to pesticides. Just whether those changes translate into a health problem, we don't know."

Use of many more pesticides

In Wageningen, Professor Violette Geissen is leading the SPRINT research. She looks at the effects on the environment and specifically what the different agents together have on water, plants and animals. "Through the growing season, you get a certain cocktail of pesticides in your soil. It can flow into surface water and sink through that soil."

Because a lot of spraying is done, for example with the herbicide glyphosate, the substances that are good for the soil and plants may disappear. And in the meantime, bad substances such as fungi get the upper hand, she explains. This, according to Geissen, leads to a vicious circle, where more and more has to be used to deal with the encroaching bad substances in the soil. "We see farmers applying a lot more fungicides, because there are more pathogenic fungi."

Farmers get stuck

As far as Geissen is concerned, farmers must be given support to be able to produce in a different way. We waste 30 percent of our food. That is thrown away by supermarkets and in households. We produce cheap food that we then throw away. The farmer is trapped as a result, because the prices are so low."

This can and must be different, according to her. "We work with farmers here and we also see incredibly successful farms. That will lead to possibly lower yields and possibly lower quality of those products. What it means for those farmers and their families is an important part of our research."

The full dutch article can be found here