The levels of pesticides varied considerably, with imported fruit and vegetables tending to have higher levels.
One in seven beans in a pod and one in five yams all had pesticides above the allowed level. One in 70 apples and pears had illegal levels of pesticides.
All of the vegetables and fruits supplied to schools contained pesticides within allowed levels, though nearly all the apples and every one of the bananas had some form of pesticide in them. Many of the pieces of fruit had more than one pesticide.
Whether you live in the UK, U.S. or elsewhere, the important thing to remember about pesticide contamination of your food is that government “allowed levels” do not mean safe levels, especially where your children are concerned.
According to Emma Hockridge of the UK Soil Association,
“… we know that children’s exposure and susceptibility to pesticides is likely to be higher, as per body weight they ingest more food and drink than adults and their bodies' ability to process and excrete any such residue is different than that of adults.”
Hockridge goes on to say,
“Powerful new evidence is emerging that suggests the combined effect of pesticide ‘mixtures’ may be more significant than previously realized, especially with regard to endocrine disruptors.”
Pesticides and Your Health
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 90 percent of fungicides, 60 percent of herbicides and 30 percent of insecticides are known to cause cancer.
Lab studies also indicate pesticides can cause other serious health problems, including:
Aside from concern about how “safe” a government’s pesticide safety standards really are, the EPA also provides this disclaimer: "You and your family have a right to know under the law that in certain cases, such as economic loss to farmers, a pesticide not meeting the safety standard may be authorized."
This means you can reasonably expect during your lifetime that you and your family will be exposed to unsafe levels of pesticides in your food, even by EPA standards.
Vegetables and fruits aren’t the only foods contaminated by pesticides. Factory farm animals eat feed full of pesticides, and these toxins accumulate in their flesh over the course of their lifetimes. When you eat factory-farmed meat, you’re ingesting not only the pesticides from the flesh, but also antibiotics and hormones.
Which Vegetables and Fruits Are Dirtiest?
The Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) latest Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides lists the following “Dirty Dozen” fruits and vegetables as the most highly contaminated according to recent testing:
Peach Cherries Apple Kale Bell Pepper Lettuce Celery Grapes (imported) Nectarine Carrot Strawberries Pear
The EWG recommends you buy these 12 foods organic rather than conventionally grown. For a full downloadable Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides, visit FoodNews.org.
Traditional vs. Organic Farming
Where traditional farmers apply chemical fertilizers to the soil to grow their crops, organic farmers feed and build soil with natural fertilizer.
Traditional farmers use insecticides to get rid of insects and disease, while organic farmers use natural methods such as insect predators and barriers for this purpose. Traditional farmers control weed growth by applying synthetic herbicides, but organic farmers use crop rotation, tillage, hand weeding, cover crops and mulches to control weeds.
The result is that organically grown food is not tainted with chemical residues, which can be harmful to humans.
Additionally, conventional produce tends to have fewer nutrients than organic produce. On average, conventional produce has only 83 percent of the nutrients of organic produce. Studies have found significantly higher levels of nutrients such as vitamin C, iron, magnesium and phosphorus, and significantly less nitrates (a toxin) in organic crops.
Why You Want to Go Organic
Eating organic food is a powerful way to optimize your health. By definition, food that is "certified organic" must be:
Free from all genetically modified organisms
Produced without artificial pesticides and fertilizers
Derived from an animal reared without the routine use of antibiotics, growth promoters or other drugs
While eating fresh organic vegetables and fruits is ideal, please understand it is better to eat non-organic vegetables than no vegetables at all.
It’s also important to realize fresh non-organic vegetables and fruits are better than wilted and rotten organic produce. There are many highly perishable nutrients that degrade with time and exposure to air and ultraviolet radiation. If organic produce is seriously damaged, it’s far wiser to eat fresh, undamaged non-organic vegetables and fruits.
If you don’t have access to a health food store or grocery store that carries organic food, read my article How to Shop for the Right Food in Your Regular Grocery Store in 10 Easy Steps for great ideas on how to buy smart and make healthy selections at your local supermarket.
How to Really Stretch Your Grocery Dollar
One of the reasons you may hesitate to switch to an organic diet is the expense. If you’re convinced you can’t afford to buy organic foods for yourself or your family read this eye-opening article by Colleen Huber. I think you’ll be surprised how affordable buying organic can be when you compare it to the cost of the typical processed food diet many families consume.
If you need to pick and choose which foods to buy organic, the most important foods to buy organic are animal products – not produce. This is because animal foods tend to have higher concentrations of pesticides. Non-organic meats have up to five times more pesticides than non-organic vegetables.
Non-organic butter can have up to 20 times as many pesticides as non-organic vegetables.
So when prioritizing your purchases, look for organic meats, eggs and dairy products before anything else.
There is one exception to this rule, and this is organic milk, as it is nowhere nearly as concentrated. Additionally, the pasteurization causes far more problems than the pesticides for most people.
Choose fresh local foods over organic foods. Often, locally grown foods are raised according to organic standards at a more affordable price.