The online show Food For Thought, discusses the impact of our food chain on soil health and biodiversity. When it comes to food health, we are usually talking about the health of ourselves, the consumer. Often disregarding the health of soil and environment, while it also directly and indirectly affects our health. In short, if we take good care of the soil, the soil also takes good care of us.

Soil ecologist Paula Harkes - from Wageningen University - was invited to talk about the SPRINT project. A project about the influence of pesticides on human, plant, animal and environmental health. "It is too easy and also not working when you state that crop protection products have to be cut by 50%, without doing anything else. We have to find tools, based on scientific measurements, to farmers and consumers to be able to make a transition towards more sustainable use of pesticides together" You can view the episode below. SPRINT is the first item adressed (in Dutch).

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Professor of soil degradation and land management Violette Geissen: "We see a shift in the soil from good to bad organisms."
Foto Credits: Koen Verheijden - Trouw

Farmers cannot be blamed for spraying crop protection products, says professor Violette Geissen. The approved insect, fungus and weed control agents are safe according to the standards. Only those standards are considerably outdated. "We don't know what the actual effects on our health are ." And so she investigates.

In 2018, researchers commissioned by the European Food Safety Authority EFSA found residues of multiple pesticides in almost one in every three food samples they examined, up to 29 different substances in one product. All in low concentrations and below the maximum permitted concentration, so safe for use according to the applicable standards. It has never been investigated whether such a cocktail of substances and the added amount can harm human health. Nor is it known what these cocktails do in the lungs after inhaling particulate matter, which entrains them. Or in the soil of fields where they are used and in nature reserves where they precipitate.

 violette volkskrant pauline marie niks 

Violette Geissen leads SPRINT, a large-scale European research project into the effects of pesticides on humans, animals, plants and the environment
Foto credits: Pauline Marie Niks - Volkskrant

Much is still unknown about the role of pesticides in agriculture and their relation to people and the environment. Wageningen professor Violette Geissen is leading a large-scale study. Could there be connection with diseases such as Parkinson's? 

Geissen, currently professor of soil degradation and land management at Wageningen University & Research, is leading Sprint, a large-scale European research project into the effects of pesticides on humans, animals, plants and the environment. There is still so much that we do not know, says the German-born professor. "Many questions have never been properly researched." 

 The Dutch Radio show - Vroege Vogels (Early Birds) - witnessed how the first soil samples of the SPRINT project were taken in the Dutch Case Study Site. 

Until now, the effects of individual pesticides have been tested by looking at only five soil organisms. "And that while in reality there are a million different organisms in the soil," says Professor Geissen. "That old method is therefore outdated. We have to look at more organisms and we must also look at mixtures."

In the Netherlands, the focus is mainly on potato fields. "We will then test the mixtures of pesticides found in the laboratory on a many different soil organisms," says researcher Paula Harkes. In this way we hope to get a realistic picture of the means and the risks in practice. "

You can read more and listen to the radio show here

Pesticides should remain where they were applied. However, environmental researchers have found - through measurements over the past year and a half - that pesticides such as glyphosate can end up in nature reserves, on organic fields and in cities. How does this happen? And: what are the consequences?

From 4:15 onwards, Violette Geissen (SPRINT coordinator) explains on German television the relevance of the SPRINT project.