Siege contaminates 23% of Gaza’s food supply

21 May

palestinian-farmer-spinach-crop-1Farmer tending to his spinach crop in Gaza

Middle East Monitor, Tuesday, 20 May 2014

23 per cent of the food supply available to approximately 1.8 million Palestinians living in Gaza is contaminated because of illegal pesticides and a shortage of spare parts for related machinery, according to a study by the Al-Mezan Centre for Human Rights (MCHR).

Quds Net news agency reported on MCHR’s findings, which are the results of tests conducted on foodstuffs in the besieged enclave. The test results showed that the contamination is largely the result of chemicals and microbes, such as bacteria.

The report mentioned many reasons for the contamination, but placed primary blame on the Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip as it results in shortages of approved and tested pesticides, leading to the use of untested pesticides via smugglers or handmade alternatives; sometimes they are harmful.

Another major problem that causes contamination is the shortage of spare parts for several kinds of machines needed to maintain hygiene, for example in sewage treatment plants. As a result, the sewage waste pours into the sea or is accumulated in open areas without treatment.

Experts say that this contaminates the sea and groundwater. The sea is the main source for seafood in Gaza, and groundwater is a main irrigation source for crops. In addition to untested pesticides, this is another leading cause of contamination in vegetables and fruits.

Regarding imported food, the study finds that the Israeli measures at the Kerem Shalom Crossing, the only commercial crossing into Gaza, also lead to contaminated foodstuffs because goods are kept waiting under the hot sun before the occupation authorities allow Gaza traders to enter.

All food, as well as other items, imported into the Gaza Strip can remain under direct sunrays for sometimes as long as several days when Israel closes the crossing for different reasons. Reports show that Israel closed the crossing for 45 out of the first 120 days of this year.

Meanwhile, MCHR blamed the Palestinian government for the weakness of monitoring services and for not bringing farmers and traders who breach the standards to court.

MCHR called upon the international community and human rights organisations to help end the Israeli siege of Gaza in order to ensure that proper and safe food is available for Gaza’s residents.

It called upon those countries that are members of conventions related to food rights to urgently meet their obligations, which are represented in working to afford proper, diverse and safe food for all humans.

Locally, it called for the government to reactivate the terms of food quality standards and to carry out periodical tests, as well as to bring those who breach the law to court.

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