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March 23, 2012
Why It's Time To Stop Buying ALL Watermelon and Kiwi Fruit That Is Non-Organic

This is definitely a consumer alert that all should be aware of. You may have noticed some unusually large watermelons and kiwi fruit on the shelves lately. China's largest base of these fruits has fallen into scandal as farmers are overusing growth chemicals in an attempt to make extra money for their enhanced weight. The chemicals are also being used in other countries who are the top producers of the world of these fruits.

An investigative report by China Central Television found farms in and around Danyang city in Jiangsu province were losing acres of fruit to the problem.

The farmers spray forchlorfenuron, a growth accelerator, during overly wet weather which make the melons burst, CCTV said, citing agricultural experts. Readers should be aware that forchlorfenuron is also registered for use on grapes raisins, and kiwi fruit in the United States, Chile, Egypt, Israel, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, Turkey, Canada and Europe.

Farmer Collecting Dripping Forchlorfenuron From Kiwi Fruit

Forchlorfenuron is a cytokinin, that is, it's a substance that promotes cell division and delays cell death. FCF acts on septins, which are key factors in mitosis, cell division. That function results in larger--and exploding--fruit. The application of excess FCF prompts cells to divide more rapidly. That's a cancer-like function.

Of course, the greater multiplication of cells produces bigger fruits, but that excess growth is not necessarily accompanied by adequate nutrients. Therefore, the stability and nutritional quality of the fruit tends to deteriorate.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Pesticide Fact Sheet, forchlorfenuron causes inflammation, growth retardation, emaciation, and increased mortality in rats tested.

Look Out For White seeds in Watermelons

Most watermelons sold at wholesale markets are believed to have been treated with forchlorfenuron. Telltale signs are fibrous, misshapen fruit with mostly white instead of black seeds.

But the report underscores how farmers are abusing both legal and illegal chemicals, with many farms misusing pesticides and fertilizers.

"There is no consistency on this issue," said environmentalist Kent Polich. "We've seen this chemical used everywhere around the world, whether it's regulated or not, there are agricultural marketers who are pushing this on farmers in every country," he added. Polich said that many countries who say they're regulating the chemical and banning exports found after testing, are not enforcing those commitments. Notably Italy, New Zealand, Chile, Greece, and France have all been caught exporting fruit with anything from high concentrations to traces of the chemical in the fruit.

In NTDTV's exclusive, a farmer, Liu Mingsuo is profiled after counting his losses when his watermelon crops began exploding on the ground. He says a local agricultural expert advised him to spray his crops with a type of chemical. It's supposed to make the melons grow bigger and taste sweeter. But in a bizarre twist, the watermelons began bursting open, well before they were ripe. In just one morning, Liu had to throw out more than 11,000 pounds of his crops.

Kiwi Fruits Subjected To The Chemical Worldwide

The top kiwi fruit producers of the world are Italy, New Zealand and Chile. All have been found to use forchlorfenuron, sometimes heavily on their vines.

Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry databases show a Christchurch company in New Zealand, Jatra Corporation, has a license for Caplit as a wettable powder which can be used as a "plant growth regulator".

In the New Zealand grower trials for evaluating the effects of forchlorfenuron on kiwifruit production in New Zealand, the average fruit weight with hormone treatment was 27 percent to 46 percent heavier than those of untreated fruit.

Although the United States' Environmental Protection Agency announced that after April 1, 2004 it would no longer tolerate forchlorfenuron residues on almonds, apples, blueberries, cranberries, figs, grapes, kiwifruit, olives, pears and plums, they have not properly enforced testing or regulation to protect consumers. Farmers can still order the chemical from overseas and elsewhere and investigations show it can easily be obtained and applied to crops bypassing all regulations since there are no enforcement camps to address the matter.

Italy's kiwifruit industry has suffered a setback two years ago after an investigation by Giuseppe Miliano, the public prosecutor for Lazio, found that an "illegal and cancerous" phytosanitary substance was being imported from China and applied to a number of kiwifruit orchards in the region.

According to the report, a secret laboratory sent bottles of the product to growers who, separately, received false labels printed with the name of a legal substance.

"These occurences are increasing in frequency everywhere and there is absolutely no way the average consumer can protect themselves unless they buy organic produce," stated Polich.

Natasha Longo has a master's degree in nutrition and is a certified fitness and nutritional counselor. She has consulted on public health policy and procurement in Canada, Australia, Spain, Ireland, England and Germany.

EPA Pesticide Fact Sheet
APVMA Forchlorfenuron eval


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