organic bread
Only 8.6% of products marked as organic contained pesticides. Photo by Alon Ron
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A sampling of so-called organic produce conducted by the Agriculture Ministry found residues from pesticides and herbicides in a large percentage of both bread and dried fruits.

The ministry said the quantities of the residues were above the acceptable standards for organic produce, and ordered manufacturers of organic breads to conduct laboratory tests on the gluten in the flour used before baking any bread from it. The ministry said the main source of the pesticide residues was in the gluten.

But there was some good news too. The ministry found great improvement in the fruits and vegetables tested compared to previous years: Only 8.6% of products marked as organic were found to have such residues in 2010 compared to 24% in 2009.

The products tested in last year’s survey included tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, bread, pasta, legumes, jams, baked goods, dried fruits and spices.

There was also significant improvement in the labeling of organic goods. In 2010, 48% of organic products were labeled correctly. The law requires all such products to have the organic symbol and that of the supervisory body on the label so the consumer can identify supervised organic produce. In 2009 only 9% of organic products met the legal labeling requirements.

Although organic produce only makes up 1.5% of Israeli agricultural production, it contributes 13% of all agricultural exports. Some 760 businesses are officially listed as producing organic products, including 500 farmers. Organic fields total about 70,000 dunams ‏(17,500 acres‏); 65% of this area is used for growing vegetables in open fields and 25% is fruit orchards. 6% of the land is used for hothouse vegetables and 4% for spices.

The law requires all stores to clearly separate organic goods from non-organic to prevent confusion. This includes fresh fruit and vegetables as well as processed foods.