Dinner With a Pesti-Side Order | Seventh Generation
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Dinner With a Pesti-Side Order

Author: the Inkslinger

Put  non-organic fruits and veggies on the table and you could wind up with a plate full of pesticides, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Marketing Service Pesticide Data Program (do not under any circumstances try to say that with your mouth full).  The agency's latest annual study on pesticide residues in food finds that there are significant differences in levels found in conventionally-grown, chemically treated produce compared with levels in organic varieties.

Many people don't believe that there's much distinction between organic and non-organic foods, so when differences are uncovered, it's important to take note. In this case, the research found many kinds of pesticide residue that range from chlorpyrifos on cilantro to pentachloroaniline on potatoes.

Organic foods studied had only the occasional trace element of chemicals -- unwanted visitors that came from elsewhere in the environment. When detected, these slight levels represent an infinitely small health concern compared with the levels found in conventional crops raised in a chemical soup.

You can read the report (warning: you'll need a herculean attention span) or just take the Organic Trade Association's word for what it says. Either way, once again, we're left with a lesson worth chewing on: that we'd all be wise to go organic.


peacecookie picture
Vote with your wallet, even if you can only afford one organic item, it will make a difference.
vlad picture
There may very well be much difference between pesticide residue levels on organic and non-organic produce, however there is no such comparison in the USDA report. The 2009 report has data on a SINGLE variety of organic produce, lettuce. The last time conventional lettuce was tested was in 2005, and organic lettuce does compare favorably to that. There is no data on any other variety of organic produce. Let's not discredit organics by wishful thinking; we should only make claims that are supported by facts. To that end, the USDA initiative to test the output of 10% of organic farms as part of its certification is a step forward.
ra_welsh@yahoo.com picture
Thanks to "biased review" for taking the time to look at the source data. Of course no one wants to eat chemicals, but I find people are blindly biased toward organic. Bugs don't run away b/c someone declares their farm organic. If bugs love apples, they love the organic kind as well. So, unless you know where the food is coming from and the actual practices the farmer is using, you don't really know what you are eating. I haven't read the report, but hope to find the time. I'm very interested in what was tested - did it include organic pesticide chemicals as well?
DEmerson picture
Don't forget that buying organic produce at your local farmer's market is even safer than the so-called "organic" produce at the chain stores.
Kathleen Zalecki picture
Kathleen Zalecki
Thanks. Your article confirms why I try quite hard to stick with organic!
Elena Pacheco picture
Elena Pacheco
It would be best to look up which foods you definitely should eat organic and which are ok to eat if they are not. Another factor is to consider purchasing foods based on their season of produce availability. A few examples (buy organic): Spinach and Strawberries (Spring); Celery, Peppers, Potatoes, Cherries (Summer); Apples, Grapes, Pears (Fall).
tyeann picture
I have been told by my physician that I should steer clear of conventional produce and meat because of the danger of chemicals and pesticides. Luckily,I have been vegetarian for 30 yrs. and eat organic ONLY. There are some forms of produce that supposedly have less toxins. I still avoid them. I'm not rich,but value my health.
mysohni picture
I grew up in a LARGE farming family that farmed thousands of acres for years....conventionally. I currently farm (conventionally). The grandfather that farmed those thousands of acres has been buying ORGANIC foods for years now. Why? I buy ORGANIC whenever possible for my family. Why? Because we work first hand with the pesticides and farming industry. Trust me.....there is nothing safe about eating chemicals. Ever been around a field after it's been sprayed? YUCK! There simply isn't enough people that understand the costs associated with farming organic who are willing to pay for it. Yields are lower, so cost to produce goes up. The same people who don't want to pay extra for organic often pay $5 a day for coffee....so it all depends on what your priorities are. Pay now for healthier food OR pay later with sickness, disease and/or discomfort. I guess paying for a prescription to treat what you've eaten yourself into is easier? It's not my fault or the crappy eating choices I made.....it's a "medical condition".....sure!
doodlez14 picture
It's interesting to hear from you that "conventionally grown food is not evil." How can we think that if we spray all of this poisonous chemical substance all over a field to completely kill every insect in its path that we won't eventually get killed ourselves in the long run from eating the food that comes from that crop? Eat organic. It's the only way our great-grandparents knew how to eat. There was no other way up until after World War I, then we decided we could use chemicals of warfare to "protect" our crops from insects. Since the beginning of time up until that point humans had been eating 100% organic. Remember, "You Are What We Eat." To disrupt the very food that powers us by poisoning it, to me, is nothing other than evil.
boardin1 picture
I have been reading the actual USDA report and I find that your description of the results is rather slanted. There are several conventionally grown crops that are lower in residues than the one organic that is on the list and the sample size of that one organic crop is considerably smaller than most of the conventionally grown crops. Now the sample size is large enough to be statistically significant but your comment that "these slight levels represent an infinitely small health concern compared with the levels found in conventional crops raised in a chemical soup" is out of line. First all of these detected levels are below the EPA & USDA threshold and secondly the ONE organic crop is not that much better than any other crop on this study. 1 in 250 (organic lettuce) vs 1 in 100 (oranges) is not as great a difference as you make it out to be and sweet corn came in at less 1 in 1000 and asparagus was at 1 in 1000, both of which are at least 4 times better than the organic lettuce. In closing I will say that it is probably better to eat organic if it is available but conventionally grown food is not evil. As a consumer pay attention to where your information is coming from, just because the USDA created this document doesn't mean that the OTA isn't spinning it to meet their goals. And this article is written by someone that is trying to sell a product to you. My recommendation is to read the actual USDA paper and see what it says to you.