The Israeli Chief Rabbinate is embarking on a new initiative led by Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger to revoke kosher certificates from fruit and vegetable growers who overuse pesticides. 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 Eliyahu noted 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.
Chief 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 be 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.