If for no other reason – this one should make the most sense.
Pesticides are chemicals such as fungicides, herbicides, and insecticides. These chemicals are typically used quite liberally in conventional agriculture. As noted in a previous post – the USDA organic label has stringent requirements, which include that synthetic fertilizers, prohibited pesticides, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used.
Organic does not mean pesticide free (unless labeled as such), but generally speaking most artificial pesticides are prohibited (the USDA has very stringent guidelines on prohibited pesticides when it comes to organic foods). You will probably find that many organic farmers seek to minimize the use of all pesticides, even natural ones.
The concern I’m focusing on is pesticide residue that remains on and in food.
The President’s Cancer Panel in their statement on Environmental Factors on Cancer state: “Many pesticides are known endocrine disruptors, and several in common use are known to cause mammary tumors in animals. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has concluded that some substances used in pesticides are known, probable, or possible human carcinogens.”
Probable, or possible human carcinogens. For me, that phrase alone is enough to point me in the direction of foods that possibly or probably won’t contribute the possibility of developing cancer.
Cancer is a terrible and complicated disease or group of diseases with many possible causes, but I’m not interested in doing or ingesting anything is possibly or probably will contribute to the possibility of me developing it.
So – what do you do then?
1. See the previous post about how to find organic food at reasonable prices. One of the suggestions is to purchase locally and utilize local farmers markets. This give you an opportunity about how the food was raised and prepared for market.
2. Focus on the “dirty dozen”. These are the dozen foods that are most likely to contain pesticide residue and therefore are the ones you should make sure on your list of organic foods:
Apples, Celery, Strawberries, Peaches, Spinach, Nectarines, Grapes, Sweet Bell Peppers, Potatoes, Blueberries, Lettuce, and Kale (and collard greens).
The Environmental Working Group has an excellent website detailing these foods and also those that are not as much of a concern. I recommend that you use their list as a guide when shopping.
Finally, it’s important to remember that natural and organic are not interchangeable. Other truthful claims, such as free-range, hormone-free, and natural, can still appear on food labels even if the foods don’t meet the USDA organic labeling requirement. Don’t confuse these terms with organic as you may be not be buying what you think you are.
Questions about anything in this post? Leave me a comment – I’d love to hear from you!