Pesticide residue analysis in Hungary between 1967 and 2015

Monday, March 21, 2016

Authors: Árpád Ambrus, Adrien Vásárhelyi


1. Summary

Around the same time of the development of modern large scale plant protection, exem­plary even on an international level, it became necessary to check pesticide residue con­centrations in treated crops, soils and surface waters. OÉTI methods were continuously improved by the young, well-trained and enthusiastic staff of the testing laboratories equipped with state-of-the-art instruments, and procedures satisfying the needs of wide-ranging analytical tasks were developed, as a result of which a four-volume integrated method collection was already published in 1976, and from 1978 analytical results were already processed and evaluated with the help of computers.

By regular training courses and by prescribing strict quality assurance requirements, we ensured that the results of the 20 testing laboratories were comparable. For the staff of a network, having such a methodological background and this high level professional knowledge, it was not a problem to obtain accreditation, in accordance with international requirements, according to the Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) and standard ISO 17025, and then to participate outstandingly in international conferences and proficiency testing schemes after joining the European Union.

However, the economic state of the country did not allow for a large number of testing laboratories to be maintained. Concentration of the analyses and operating a smaller number of laboratories but with larger staffs were also justified by the optimal utilization of high performance, expensive instruments.

Reduction in the number of laboratories started at the beginning of the 90’s, and current­ly there are 4 laboratories with 37 employees, performing the pesticide residue content inspection of nearly six to seven thousand samples of foods and feeds of animal or plant origin, and also a limited number of analyses investigating environmental pollutions.

Analytical requirements are continuously becoming stricter. Today, a pesticide residue testing laboratory is expected to analyze samples for the residues of 400-500 different pesticides and their toxic metabolites, within days. These expectations can only be met by using state-of-the-art instruments and, in this respect, we are seriously lagging be­hind. Following the instrument purchases and training courses held in 2008 within the framework of the EU transition facility programme, substantial purchases and organized training courses were very limited or non-existent. Replacement of the instruments that are 9 to 16 years old being at the very end of their expected life span, and regular training of the staff that, fortunately, consists mainly of young people, thus ensuring continuity, are necessary without delay for laboratories to be able to perform the control inspections essential for the realization of food safety objectives, satisfying EU requirements.


2. The need for pesticide residue analysis and de­velopment of the testing network

In the 50s, damages due to the potato beetle, the fall webworm, the blossom feeder scarab and sugar beet pests had become commonplace all over Hungary, against which mandatory protection was ordered, using primarily persistent DDT and other chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides. In 1954-55, county plant protection stations were established in every county, with extremely modest infrastructural backgrounds. In 1958, graduate training of plant protection special engineers was launched at the Gödöllő University of Agriculture. Systematic and complex development of plant protection is associated with the name of dr. Bálint Nagy, who considered Hungarian plant protec­tion as a major element of the whole agricultural sector, affecting certain elements of the living and non-living environment, as well as society as a whole [1].

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Anton Paar