Do you eat your daily recommended servings of fruits and vegetables? Are you eating organic or conventional?
According to Environmental Working Group, you should eat your fruits and vegetables, even if they are not organic, because the benefits outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure. You knew that, right?
Actually, this is the first time I really read those lines from EWG and I couldn’t agree more. However, personally, I rarely eat conventional apples or celery or berries. But that’s just me. I only buy organic produce that are listed on the left and buy conventional that are listed on the right side of the guide. If I can’t find, let’s say, organic apples and berries, I just don’t buy them but substitute them with safer fruits. I remember showing my little EWG guide to the produce manager and suggesting that he should carry the dirty dozen in organic at all times. I think he chuckled and nodded, smiling. And maybe others are demanding more organic too because there are more and more organic produce available in supermarkets these days.
What does detectable pesticide on produce mean?
EWG’s Shoppers Guide lists produce that were commonly contaminated with toxic pesticides but does not indicate what levels. According to Food Safety News,
“When USDA released the most recent round of its pesticide testing data last month, the Agriculture Marketing Service said the findings confirmed that “food does not pose a safety concern based upon pesticide residues.” Similar to previous years, the 2010 report shows that overall pesticide residues found on foods tested are at levels well below the tolerances set by the [Environmental Protection Agency],” said AMS, in a release. “The report does show that residues exceeding the tolerance were detected in 0.25 percent of the samples tested.”
In other words, according to USDA, just because pesticide is present on fruits and vegetables, that doesn’t mean it’s unsafe to eat. And there is The Alliance for Food and Farming, a group supported by the produce industry, that launched an effort to counter the EWG shopper guide.
“What [the guide] doesn’t do is give you any information as to whether or not those amounts represent a risk,” said Dr. Carl Keen, a professor of nutrition and internal medicine at the University of California Davis, in a web video for the Alliance. “The average consumer doesn’t think about that. So I have concerns that he or she may shy away from consuming perhaps that apple, that banana, or that pineapple out of a fear that it’s unhealthy.”
“What’s occurring is they’re making this trade off, they’re not consuming it, which is quite bad in terms of their overall health, for a perceived risk that we can probably barely even quantify,” added Keen.
But EWG states, firmly, “Eat your fruits and vegetables! The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure. Use EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides to reduce your exposures as much as possible, but eating conventionally-grown produce is far better than not eating fruits and vegetables at all.”
So it’s up to us, the consumers, to decide if we want to eat organic or conventional. And if the recent trend of organic produce being more popular and available is any indication, I think we can agree that EWG’s guide is a strong influence in educating us to determine whether we want to buy organic apples or conventional pineapples or not, no matter what the pesticide levels are.
As far as I’m concerned, ingesting any amount of pesticide can’t be good. I know even organic produce use pesticides and you can detect some levels on them too but I rather take a chance with organic than, conventional. And some might argue that there’s no taste difference too but I beg to differ. Organic produce taste so much better and tender to me.
This year’s guide includes two Plus categories to include green beans and leafy greens like kale and collard greens. Personally, I find organic kale much tender than gigantic and tough leaves of conventional kale so this new addition makes sense to me. I’m always looking at the umbrella sized conventional kale leaves, thinking, “what DID they feed this thing to be this big and tough?” It turns out, according to EWG, these leafy greens were “commonly contaminated with highly toxic organophosphate insecticides. These insecticides are toxic to the nervous system and have been largely removed from agriculture over the past decade. But they are not banned and still show up on some food crops.”
And as far as corns are concerned, as we all knew already, commodity crop corn used for animal feed and biofuels is almost all produced with genetically modified (GMO) seeds and pretty soon, even fresh sweet corn will be genetically modified and will be sold for human consumption starting this summer. Since GMO sweet corn is not labeled as such in US stores, EWG advises those who have concerns about GMOs to buy organic sweet corn, if you can find them.
So I’ll let you decide if organic is better than conventional. Here is the full list.