The Ministry of the Environment’s Agro-Ecology Division deals with the prevention of environmental degradation arising from improper agricultural practices in Israel’s rural sector. By means of monitoring, legislation, enforcement, education and guidance and in cooperation with the farming community, agricultural organizations, research institutes, regional councils and government ministries, the division is working to promote high-quality produce which meets both agricultural and environmental standards.
The Ministry of Agriculture’s Plant Protection and Inspection Department is in charge of the registration, regulation and supervision of pesticides. Pesticide use is monitored by three ministries: Agriculture, Health and the Environment. The pesticide registration process begins with testing and investigation followed by provisional approval for limited use. When toxicological data have been gathered, an advisory committee, composed of representative of several ministries, approves the product for final registration. If data indicate substantial environmental risk, the Environment Ministry can withhold its support for approval.
Water pollution prevention regulation prohibit aerial spraying of biological and/or chemical substances for agricultural purpose near water sources and the emptying or rinsing of pesticide application equipment into a water source.
The Ministry of Agriculture regularly test for pesticide residues in agricultural produce earmarked for export to ensure it meets stringent environmental and health standards. The Ministry of Health is responsible for regulating monitoring and testing of food quality for local consumption, but thus far testing has bee sporadic. In accordance with a 1993 agreement between the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Health, pesticide monitoring inspectors, under the responsibility of the Environment Ministry, collect samples of fruits and vegetables ready for marketing while still within the jurisdiction of the farmer. The Ministry of Health tests the samples in its laboratories. Test results are reviewed by representatives of the two ministries and appropriate measures are taken in case of deviation from standards. Pesticide warehouses are strictly supervised by pesticide monitoring inspectors.
Draft regulations are in various stages of preparation to deal with other problems associated with agricultural practices. These include regulations on the prevention of groundwater pollution by greenhouse leachate, regulations on environmentally-safe collection and disposal of empty pesticide containers, and regulations on abattoir waste. An interministerial committee is proposing solutions to the problems of solid and liquid wastes of the cowshed and chicken coop. Environmentally-safe procedures will be enforced within the framework of the Licensing of Businesses Law.
Integrated pest management, including biological control, is currently being implemented in several agricultural areas in Israel. The development of organic agriculture further promises reductions in environmentally-harmful agricultural practices.
The Ministry of the Environment is responsible for the surveillance and control of pests harmful to man, for licensing and supervising pest control operators and for registering insecticides for the protection of public health.
Pest control operators are required to pass a special qualification examination in order to be licensed by the Ministry of the Environment. The registration system has been computerized to facilitate more efficient follow-up and transfer of information.
The registration process for insecticides for the protection of public health is separate from that for agricultural use. Insecticide permits for public health purposes must be approved by a statutory committee composed of representatives of the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Health. A recently-signed regulation transfers authority for registration of insecticides for the protection of public health from the Ministry of Health to the Ministry of the Environment.
Mosquito surveillance constitutes the bulk of the activity of the Pest Surveillance and Control Division. The division is responsible for monitoring mosquito breeding sites (both Anopheles and Culex), guiding local authorities, and enforcement. Local authorities are required to exterminate mosquitoes when discovered by the monitoring teams of the Ministry of the Environment. Mosquito surveillance is undertaken by regional mosquito control inspectors of the Ministry of the Environment who routinely visit all potential Anopheles breeding sites and search for larvae, which are then submitted for identification to the Entomological Laboratory of the Ministry of Health. When mosquitoes are discovered, the responsible authorities are notified and instructed to undertake immediate control activities in accordance with guidelines issued by the Ministry of the Environment. Wherever possible, recommendations call for the use of natural enemies and biological insecticides. A national computerized surveillance system of breeding sites of Anopheles mosquitoes was established using the Ministry of the Environment’s Geographical Information System.
The Ministry of the Environment guides relevant bodies to undertake integrated pest management, including such activities as prevention of sewage discharge, free-flow of the water stream, use of natural enemies such as ganibusia fish and use of environmentally-friendly materials such as BTI (Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis).