The Shocking Truth About Organic Produce

June 17, 2011


Like many shoppers, when I think of organic produce I believe that I'm shelling out extra moolah for produce that has not been treated with pesticides - or at least, not a lot. And while for the most part this is true -- USDA regulations limit the types and amount of pesticides used on organic produce -- here are a few shocking facts about "organic" pesticides practices:

  • In a recent study, nearly 20% of organic lettuce tested positive for pesticide residues
  • Generally, the list of allowed pesticides is limited to products that use naturally occurring chemicals and compounds (things derived from natural soil bacteria, plants and flowers, etc.)
  • Some naturally occurring compounds and chemicals are not (nicotine and arsenic, to name two)
  • Some synthetic products are allowed if they contain other natural compounds (like copper or sulfur)
  • Many of the substances on the List are still considered toxic by the EPA

Here is an interesting quote from Jeff Gillman (Univ. Minnesota) and Maureen Langlois (NPR):

Are naturally derived pesticides less toxic than synthetic ones? The answer depends a lot on the dosage, says Gillman. "To control fire blight on the same acre of land," he explains, "I could use a tiny amount of a potent synthetic that has proved safe over the last 50 years, or a much larger amount of an organic pesticide." He demurs on saying which is better, saying, "I want people to know that there are definitely tradeoffs."

So, is buying organic produce really any safer? Yes and no -- to answer this, I'll point to the Dirty Dozen/Clean Fifteen. Is it really more environmentally friendly? Maybe, maybe not - Gillman raises a really interesting point. What are your thoughts? Does this change how you feel about organic produce?

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Katherine's picture

Great article! I also especially liked Gillman's viewpoint . "Gillman says just because an organic farmer used some authorized chemicals is no reason to shun the food. But it's important for consumers to know what's going on. For him, the answer to the ambiguity around organic labeling is to go local. "I go to the farmers market and talk to the growers to see who is serious about reducing pesticide use," he says. "I'd rather buy food from someone who used Roundup once than someone who uses organic pesticides all the time."

I couldn't agree more!!!!

Marilyn Martinsen's picture

Have never been impressed with never really looks good and fresh. I prefer to buy regular produce at a much cheaper price and wash it thoroughly.

Heather Sires's picture

Though I think organic tastes better about 90% of the time, it is out of my price range for my weekly shopping. I buy the stuff at the grocery store and just clean it more thoroughly.

Bob's picture

This article has like, nothing!!!