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July 22, 2009

Annals of Halakha: Veggies' Kashrut to be Revoked for Overuse of Pesticides, Chief Rabbi Says

Rabbi-Yona.Metzger-cropped Some "bug free" kosher supervised growers prevent the presence of insects by "spraying insecticides in insane quantities."

Veggies' kashrut may be revoked for over-spraying
Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger undertakes unprecedented initiative to withdraw kosher authorization from fruit and vegetable growers who use dangerous pesticides even if their use may not represent actual breach of kashrut laws

Kobi Nahshoni • Ynet

The Chief Rabbinate is embarking on a new initiative to revoke kosher certificates from fruit and vegetable growers who overuse pesticides, according to a new effort pushed through by Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger.

Salad The rabbi intends to convene a meeting of the rabbinate's kashrut committee to discuss the issue. Metzger plans on meeting relevant officials in the health and agriculture ministries ahead of the meeting. If the initiative is authorized, it will be the first time the Chief Rabbinate stipulates conditions not directly related to kosher laws for the issuance of a kosher certificate.

In recent weeks, the Chief Rabbinate has been waging a battle against a number of vegetable growers who grow insect-less leafy vegetables, a condition that gains them a higher level of kashrut.

According to Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, chairman of the Chief Rabbinate's committee on the kashrut of leafy vegetables, some of the growers prevent the presence of insects on their produce by "spraying insecticides in insane quantities," instead of using tailored growing methods.

Rabbi-Yona.Metzger-cropped Within the context of his efforts to fight the phenomenon of over-spraying pesticides, Rabbi Eliyahu met with Chief Rabbi Metzger on Monday to reiterate to him that such behavior is not only inefficient in keeping pests away, but also endangers the consumer. He explained that the pesticides do not reach all areas of the fruits and vegetables on which they are sprayed, such that the presence of insects remains high. He emphasized that the sprays are toxic chemicals that are not removed by standard household washing.

In response, Metzger said that he has recently been looking into the option of removing the kosher certificates of companies and farmers who attempt to battle insects with over-spraying or use of forbidden chemicals instead of growing their produce in greenhouses or other various techniques that effectively treat the problem.

The chief rabbi added that he intends to pass a decision on the issue through the Chief Rabbinate's kashrut committee, but emphasized that he first will consult with the relevant officials in the health and agriculture ministries. The Chief Rabbinates has already established a team to examine the issue together with the government ministries and to put together new kashrut protocols.

Veggies (low res) The Rabbinate will discuss with the health and agriculture ministries the option of gaining up-to-date access to statistics on the quantities and types of insecticides being used during each harvest.

Rabbi Metzger is confident that the extended stipulations for obtaining a kosher certificate will stand up in the High Court. He has emphasized that he is aware that the move is unprecedented, but believes that it will authorized because of the health hazards involved in eating fruits and vegetables that have been over-sprayed, making the issue "a purely halachic consideration."

"Such fruits truly endanger those who eat them. You cannot grant kashrut to poison," he said.


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Good. It's high time that kashrut was correctly extended beyond the purely ritualistic parameters.

In the same way, let's also realize, "Glatt kosher? Glatt yoshor!"

Evidently this rabbi is an expert in farming techniques and pest control. I'd love to be a "Chief Rabbi" for just three minutes to see how it feels to know everything about everything.

The Rabbanut will have either
1) establish a serious agricultural division complete with modern test labs to provide kosher certificates for vegitable growers who don't overuse pesticides. Or
2) stop certifying something that does not need any certification. Or
3) use age proven system of paternalism and corruption to determine who is trustworthy

I think they will default to the traditional system #3, which cost next to nothing, while allowing for serious inflow of kosher racket money, and keep the money in the family.

Does that mean the OU will remove its hechsher from wood alchohol and oven cleaners?

Ben 6:42, excellent summary.

Rabbi Metzger - Another one with a reputation of gold....Not!

The obsession with microscopic insects is insane. They are harmless (although gross in concept) and unless something can be plainly seen with the naked eye, it doesn't count according to my understanding of halacha.

That said, it is detrimental to one's health to use too many pesticides, and it is good the rabbis recognize that.

The global growth in "Organic Farming" will, more properly, take care of the situation, without Rabbinic meddling.

When I first started studying kashrut, I was told "There's no need to say that poisonous plants aren't kosher since common sense says not to eat them."
Boy was that rabbi wrong. Not only will some people eat poison, they'll pay extra for it!

Reminds me of the old leftist song, The Man who Waters the Workers' Beer:


I am the man, the very fat man,
That waters the workers' beer
I am the man, the very fat man,
That waters the workers' beer
And what do I care if it makes them ill,
If it makes them terribly queer
I've a car, a yacht, and an aeroplane,
And I waters the workers' beer


Now when I waters the workers' beer,
I puts in strychnine
Some methylated spirits,
And a can of kerosine
Ah, but such a brew so terribly strong,
It would make them terribly queer
So I reaches my hand for the watering-can
And I waters the workers' beer

Now a drop of good beer is good for a man
When he's tired, thirsty and 'ot
And I sometimes have a drop myself,
From a very special pot
For a strong and healthy working class
Is the thing that I most fear
So I reaches my hand for the watering-can
And I waters the workers' beer

Now ladies fair, beyond compare,
Be you maiden or wife
Spare a thought for such a man
Who leads such a lonely life
For the water rates are terribly high,
And the meths is terribly dear
And there isn't the profit there used to be
In watering the workers' beer.

Yochanan,Ben, excellent posts.
Haven't people heard of washing vegetables before they eat them?

For crying out loud, for once the rabbanut does the right thing and even then the gang here has complaints. Also, some of you must live in a basement. Israel is a modern country, and they have an FDA equivalent, which is how pesticides are monitored. Rabbi Metzger deserves credit; after all, the same impulse (doesn't matter what we're doing as long as we have a hechsher, shomer petaim hashem) is what drove the excesses of Rubaschkin. I can't for the life of me fathom what "itchiemayer" is complaining about, for example. You want your kids to be eating pesticides at yeshiva?
For the record, the dati leumi world used to be on the forefront of hydroponic food development, a dear friend of mine was involved with this before being killed by a terrorist in front of his wife and children several years ago.

Too bad they got rid of Gush Katif which was the major source of hydroponic vegetables and also was a huge percentage of the Israeli agriculture sector. Boy was that stupid.

i applaud the rabbi for wishing to use his influence to limit unsafe pesticide use.
however, the reason this overuse is occurring is due to the growers desire to obtain an unnecessary hechsher. what the rabbi should have said is that since the beginning of time there have been bugs in food, so no hashgacha is required, rather the end user should do his best to wash off any bugs he can see and that will suffice as it always has before. this would eliminate the impetus for excessive pesticide use, but would also eliminate a revenue stream for the rebbeim so he chose not to. that is why any applause should be backhanded.

Washing doesn't do much good for a lot of fruits and veggies, not to mention that some pesticides, especially if improperly used, can be taken up by the plants' roots and incorporated into the produce.

The 'Green Revolution' was brought about by the modern instrumentation that started to appear (in robust commercial form) about the 1970s[and is constantly improving]. Pesticides usually have some chlorine molecule the presence of which can be detected, to the part per trillion. That was when residue DDT and related compounds were found to be in the environment and were banned. Other compounds such as sulfur can be detected as well. Metals can be detected in the part per billion range that why leaded paint was banned, as lead was beginning to show up in blood.
Mercury is detectable in parts per trillion. These are just examples.

Maven, the rabbanut have created the problem by introducing unnecessary hashgoha regulations, now the rabbanut is trying to solve the problem by issuing more regulations, which would lead to more corruption, bigger price tag to the public and greater power for the rabbanut. This is not reasonable. Therefore I can not applaud the rabbanut on this one.

The only real solution is to drop the veggie kashrut humra, but this will not be done since their lust for money blinds their judgement.

In college, I had to read Rachel Carson's Silent Spring for class. That Shabbat, I went home to my parents and we had the local OU representative (and his family) over for lunch. When he saw the book, he joked that Rachel Carson is the reason why today we have to check our vegetables. Because in the good ol' days (again, jokingly) all veges were sprayed to death.

I don't know why, but ever since then, I find myself smelling my fruits and thinking
"I love the smell of napalm in the morning."

Ben, if you know the history of this new chumrah, you know that it wasn't the Rabbanut that decreed it, it was one of the truly grass roots auto-chumras in history. Suddenly everyone was wild about broccoli, and no one would buy vegetables without bug checks, I remember this madness in Israel, people weren't letting their kids eat at school, they were wandering around the groceries looking for bug free certified broccoli, etc.
There was even a non-Jewish poster on this site claiming that people swarmed around her mother to learn how to identify microscopic bugs. And while its not even clear that microscopic organisms are actually forbidden, it seems to be what the "people" want.

Thanks Maven. The question remains, why rabbanut did not step in at the time of the original hysteria? Why they did not declare then that this is an unnecessary humrah? Is it because BADATZ and some agri-producers were planting seeds for big money trees, from which rabbanut expected to benefit as well?

Again, the only way to solve the problem is not by adding another layer of expensive regulations and creating new easy jobs for fast growing rabbinic families in need of new income streams members, but to go back to what was done for 3000 years - no heksher for veggies.

Also the rabbis are culprits in these types of periodic hysterias. They educate people to be OCD, then some of the rabbis take advantage of “the halachic man’s” acquired OCD skills while others are silently standing by while the simple, and my I say stupid, Jews are being robbed and poisoned.

Ben: the dynamics are, that if the community suddenly is moving rightward with some crazy chumra, and you are a Rabbi, standing there and saying its silly, suddenly you are no longer "frum", etc. We've seen this over and over again, and not just in the Chareidi world (viz R. Ovadia Yosef and women wearing pants).

"...this would eliminate the impetus for excessive pesticide use, but would also eliminate a revenue stream for the rebbeim so he chose not to. that is why any applause should be backhanded."

I could not have said it any better, APC.

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