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NEWPOM : Pesticides in apple orchards. From exposure measurement to impact assessment

Newpom is a research-businesses partnership project co-funded by the Occitanie Region whose main objective is to compare the levels of exposure to pesticides measured on leaves and fruits and on professionals after the re-entry in apple orchards and the evaluation of the subsequent impact on the health of both consumers and professionals

Background of - and issues addressed by - the NEWPOM project

Our developed societies can today be nourished abundantly, thanks to the progress of agriculture and with the more or less massive use of phytosanitary products. However, these compounds are considered as risk factors for health, especially for professionals: the INSERM  expert joint report published in June 2013 underlines the strong presumption of a link between occupational exposure to pesticides and the risk of development certain pathologies (Parkinson's, certain cancers and metabolic diseases). The questioning of professionals and consumers about the risk to their health requires documenting the levels of exposure in all professional contexts using pesticides (ANSES report and INSERM 2013 Collective Expertise) and improving exposure knowledge on their impacts (cocktail effects in particular). The identification of the levels of exposure and the products used is therefore today a crucial step for a better understanding of the impact of these compounds on health.

The apple crop addressed in our studies requires high amounts of phytosanitary products. The average number of treatments on the apple is 35.1; of which 22.5 fungicides - bactericides, 9 insecticides - acaricides, 1.8 herbicides 1.8 growth regulators. Midi-Pyrénées (part of Occitanie region) was the third region that uses the most apple treatments with 41.6 treatments on average after the Poitou-Charentes (50 T) and Pays de la Loire (44.7 T) regions.[1]. This crop is a major production in Midi-Pyrénées, and particularly in the Tarn et Garonne, where it accounts for 42% of cultivated areas and 10% of national production.

[1] Agreste Les dossiers, Enquête sur les pratiques phytosanitaires en arboriculture 2012. Nombre de Traitements, Numéro 22, décembre 2014, 17p.


General objectives

In our project we will compare the levels of exposure of pesticides, measured in the field during a classic technical itinerary, with the evaluation of the impact of these levels by in vivo and in vitro experimental studies.

    Thus, this project aims :

  1. to evaluate the exposure of arboriculturists to pesticides, especially during a critical unprotected period of re-entry into the orchard after a treatment in the case of apple orchards, a major production in the Occitanie region, by analysis of residue levels of pesticides on leaves and fruits and measurement of direct exposure of workers after re-entry. Re-entry is a critical period because the tasks performed are done without particular individual protections and the skin of the individuals is then in direct contact with more or less contaminated plant surfaces of the leaves and fruits. Exposure will be measured on individuals involved in treated plots in parallel with the measurement of residues on trees and determination of the availability parameters of these residues.
  2. to investigate the impact of exposure to these compounds, the nature of which, association with other pesticide, the dose will be directly chosen from exposure studies, in vivo in animals and to bring by approaches in vitro mechanistic arguments compatible with the pesticide-health causality relationship. These studies will focus on the phenotypic and functional differentiation of monocytes / macrophages and its physiopathological consequences, on energy metabolism in connection with the emergence of metabolic pathologies as well as on the brain.
  3. to identify perspectives for the development of alternative solutions to the use of pesticides or to reduce the number of treatments that will promote the chemical health protection of professionals with spin-offs in the field of the economy. The Ecophyto plan aims to reduce the use of pesticides; the development of alternative methods to the use of these compounds as proposed by the AgroNutrition and CETEV companies, associated with this project, is therefore a key step that fits in the logic, among others, of the preservation of human health .

Relevance and strategic nature of the project

One of the specific challenges of this consortium is to promote research in Midi-Pyrénées in the areas of Environment-Health, by integrating several disciplinary approaches as advocated by the collective expertise report Inserm (2013). In addition, our project is perfectly in line with one of the main themes of the PNSE: to strengthen research on the links between the exposure of workers to pesticides and the development of certain pathologies. This project fits well with the strategy of the Agri Sud-Ouest Innovation Competitiveness Cluster, which we have obtained, by providing answers to the societal challenges of a major agricultural sector in Midi-Pyrénées (conventional apple growing) to improve the efficiency of their production system through better management of their "pesticide" inputs.

Economic perspectives related to this project

This project will provide answers to the question of the impact of pesticides on health in the context of a professional use and will confirm the place in the regional economy and the role of partner companies whose objective is to find an alternative to the use of pesticides for agriculture.