The serious problem(s) with Pesticides

One of the greatest benefits of growing your own food is that you can control-and even eliminate altogether-pesticide use.  Even the American Academy of Pediatrics is now onboard with those who have been sounding the alarm about the dangers of pesticide use.

A policy statement released in the Fall of 2012 by the American Academy of Pediatrics addressed acute and chronic exposure and approaches to exposure prevention, and recommended government regulation to help reduce pesticide exposure in school settings.

“Beyond acute poisoning, the influences of low-level exposures on child health are of increasing concern,” the statement says. “Epidemiologic evidence demonstrates associations between early life exposure to pesticides and pediatric cancers, decreased cognitive function, and behavioral problems.”

These are serious issues that have a very simple solution: grow your own organic garden!  Or if that’s not an option, get to know your local farmers at the farmer’s market, or join a CSA.  Don’t be afraid to ask them about pesticide use.  The more we as consumers ask the questions, the more farmers will be motivated to practice organic, sustainable farming techniques.

Organic Heirloom Harvest
Organic Heirloom Harvest

Over the past several years, I’ve been following the “Dirty Dozen” list while shopping at the store.  Each year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases its list of the most pesticide-contaminated produce, and once again apples top the Dirty Dozen.

Highlights of Dirty Dozen™ 2014

EWG’s Dirty Dozen™ list of produce includes apples, strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, spinach, sweet bell peppers, imported nectarines, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas and potatoes. Each of these foods contained a number of different pesticide residues and showed high concentrations of pesticides relative to other produce items.

In particular:

  • Every sample of imported nectarines and 99 percent of apple samples tested positive for at least one pesticide residue.
  • The average potato had more pesticides by weight than any other food.
  • A single grape sample contained 15 pesticides. Single samples of celery, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas and strawberries showed 13 different pesticides apiece.

The Clean Fifteen™

EWG’s Clean Fifteen™ for 2014 – the produce least likely to hold pesticide residues – are avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbage, frozen sweet peas, onions, asparagus, mangoes, papayas, kiwis, eggplant, grapefruit, cantaloupe, cauliflower and sweet potatoes. Relatively few pesticides were detected on these foods, and tests found low total concentrations of pesticides.

Notable findings:

  • Avocados were the cleanest: only 1 percent of avocado samples showed any detectable pesticides.
  • Some 89 percent of pineapples, 82 percent of kiwi, 80 percent of papayas, 88 percent of mango and 61 percent of cantaloupe had no residues.
  • No single fruit sample from the Clean Fifteen™ tested positive for more than 4 types of pesticides.
  • Detecting multiple pesticide residues is extremely rare on Clean Fifteen™ vegetables. Only 5.5 percent of Clean Fifteen samples had two or more pesticides.

At the very least, consumers should follow the Dirty Dozen list, and if at all possible, buy strictly organic produce at the store.  The cost is slightly higher, but when thought of in terms of the negative health consequences of consuming pesticides, it makes more economical sense in the long run.  I’ve switched to buying organic produce whenever possible, because each time I do, I’m casting my vote for sustainable farming methods and a cleaner environment. And the more the demand increases for these safer foods, the more the cost will come down, making the best food available for all.

Thanks so much for reading, and I’ll see you again soon!







The Benefits of Organic Gardening

My daughter Vivian loves to eat fresh tomatoes out of the garden, but  I didn’t like them until I was in my 20s.  I wonder if that’s because we didn’t have fresh, ripened-on-the-vine, heirloom varieties in my backyard.  Since we started our own organic vegetable garden in 2011, my family has eaten a wide variety of tasty produce while cutting down significantly on the money we spend buying organic at the store!

Michigan 2012 plus 679

A brief bit of history: In the old days, most people grew their own edible gardens, but as commercial agriculture developed more efficient methods to grow large amounts of food cheaply, fewer and fewer people chose to grow their own vegetables.

But then in WWII, Americans (and British) were encouraged to grow as much of their own food as possible to help the war effort.

When the war ended, US chemical factories that had been making nitrogen for bombs started touting nitrogen as a fertilizer for farms. This was the start of chemical farming and vegetable gardening, and also the environmental degradation that went along with it.

Today, there is a renewed interest in growing our own organic, sustainable, local food, and my family is a small part of this movement.

Thanks for reading!