The Environmental Working Group has released their latest “Dirty Dozen” list of supposedly pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables. (This is a misleading list, as we’ve explained before.) You may be tempted to buy organic produce, as the EWG suggests, but guess what—organic produce is not pesticide-free.
Organic farmers may use pesticides, so long as they choose from a list of approved options. The USDA organic program does not disallow all pesticides, just “synthetic” ones. (By the way, the term “pesticides” includes both bug sprays and weed killers.)
So what remains on our vegetables? The USDA periodically tests produce for pesticide residues; this is the Pesticide Data Program. (The EWG repurposes this data to create their Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists.) But the USDA does not test for the presence of organic-allowed pesticides. So the EWG is reporting the stuff on conventional crops without considering what’s present on organic crops.
So, will you lower your pesticide exposure by switching to organic? We don’t know, but the answer may very well be no. Even looking at the synthetic, non-organic pesticides in the USDA’s tests, conventional crops don’t always have the lowest amounts. Take strawberries, for example, the “dirtiest” item on the 2018 list: 75 percent of organic strawberries, and 76 percent of conventional strawberries, had pesticide levels that were under 5 percent of the allowable levels.
In other words, buying organic strawberries might expose you to more pesticide residues than buying conventional. We recommend ignoring the Dirty Dozen list entirely, and buying whichever fruits and veggies work for your diet and your budget.
Beth Skwarecki on Vitals, shared by Beth Skwarecki to Lifehacker
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