Mexico: Looking to reduce arsenic in crops

Researchers from the Departments of Food and Agricultural Mechanics of the Division of Life Sciences (DIEVA) at the University of Guanajuato, Irapuato-Salamanca campus are working on the prototype of filters and membranes to clean the water with which the crops are irrigated.

Maria Rosario Abraham Juarez, a PhD in Sciences with a specialization in Biotechnology in Plants in Cinvestav and Director of the Food Department la Diciva, is leading the project to eliminate as much arsenic as possible in plants.

"We are focusing on the central area of the shoal, but this metal has been detected in all geographical areas, all crops could have a presence of this heavy metal," she said.

Abraham Juarez said that these filters will allow them to make innocuous water that can be used in Guanajuato crops, which in turn would be beneficial to the health of consumers.

"Biological control is another very important type of project. I always use pesticides as an example, especially those used in strawberry and that are not inactivated; if you eat the fruit with the pesticide, and this is not a myth, your body ingests the pesticide, which causes a metastasis in your cells. That's why we have a lot of cancer nowadays," she added.

The researcher also said that they had discovered through tests that the pesticides would still be present in the fruits, even if they were subjected to drastic processes, such as those used to make the jam, where the product is subjected to 200 degrees Celsius.

"People are consuming arsenic even in processed products. This is a very serious thing because it goes directly to the organism," she said.

Consumers must demand better practices
According to Abraham Juarez, one of the main measures to be taken by consumers of these natural products, which contain arsenic, is to demand that those who are in charge of the crop, as well as those who market it, conduct better treatments, taking care of their biological control.

"Consumers should look for the fruits that have the best treatments and that don't have so many pesticides. That is our responsibility as consumers. If you go to a supermarket, you can demand that the labels say what they are consuming, how it's been treated, and what practices were used in its cultivation process," she stated.

The researcher added that there were programs in Guanajuato that were betting on this safety in crops, such as the State Government's Marca Guanajuato and Zona Premium (Guanajuato's Brand and Premium Zone).

"Marca Guanajuato and Zona Premium are encouraging and bringing together farmers that are interested in doing things right, so that consumers know what products have good practices and start to choose those," she said.

In addition, Abraham Juarez said that consuming these innocuous products, which may be a little more expensive, was an investment in the consumers' future health.

"At some point, though I hope that's not the case, people might have to make an investment on their health because of a disease... We're always told to eat fruits and vegetables but people are not aware, if they consumed healthy safe food the things being treated would be different," she concluded.


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