To put a large, controversial topic in simple terms: Pesticides are bad. Organic food doesn’t have pesticides, so it’s good for you. Right?
Even though it’s more complicated than that, there is some truth to the statement.
The Problem with Pesticides
A pesticide is a substance that prevents, kills, destroys, or repels a pest. Although this can refer to a variety of substances, people worry more about chemical pesticides. Up to 98 percent of sprayed insecticides and 95 percent of sprayed herbicides reach a destination other than their intended target species. Residue is found in our soil, water, food… and even our own bodies.
Pesticides use can create “super pests,” or pests with a resistance to common pesticides. It’s a classic example of “survival of the fittest”—only the strongest pests survive the initial spray. Eventually, the only way to get rid of them is to spray more or spray stronger chemicals.
To be fair, pesticides aren’t entirely bad. Farmers who use them are less likely to lose crops due to pests or disease, and the use of pesticides has drastically reduced malaria rates. But according to the World Health Organization, an estimated three million workers experience severe pesticide poisoning each year. There is also a correlation between pesticides and certain types of cancers and birth defects.
The Dirty Dozen
Do you want to reduce your pesticide exposure without buying all organic? The following list by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), called the “Dirty Dozen,” tells you the produce with the highest pesticide residues. So if you want to reduce your pesticide exposure, buy organic or not at all for the following:
- Nectarines (imported)
- Grapes (imported)
- Sweet bell peppers
- Blueberries (domestic)
- Kale/collard greens
I know that this list is depressing. These are all common foods in my diet. But there is some good news…
The Clean 15
The “Clean 15,” another list put out by the EWG, tells you which non-organic fruits and vegetables contain the least amount of pesticide residue. According to the EWG: “Consumers who choose five servings of fruits and vegetables a day from EWG’s Clean 15 list rather than from the Dirty Dozen can lower the volume of pesticides they consume by 92 percent.”
To eat clean without buying organic, consult this list:
- Sweet Corn
- Sweet peas
- Cantaloupe- Domestic
- Sweet potatoes
What can you take away from this list? Many of these items have thick skins or are naturally resistant to many pests.
What are your tips for buying organic?
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