Dare to Compare: Organic Produce vs Conventional Produce

Written by Tela Kayne

babyminding | organic baby | eat organicEach year Environmental Working Group puts out a list of the “Dirty Dozen” – the 12 types of produce that show the highest levels of pesticide residue based upon US Department of Agriculture Pesticide Testing Program. It’s meant to serve as a guide for consumers who are wanting to go organic on a budget, giving a list of the top 12 produce that are most contaminated and thus should be bought as organic. You can view this years list in the Babyminding Guide section.

There has been much controversy as to whether organic produce is better than its conventional counterpart. Organic produce can be a lot more expensive depending on the item and many people wonder if it’s worth spending more. Pesticides are toxic and are designed to kill living organisms.

“Children have been found to be especially susceptible to the harmful effects of pesticides. A number of research studies have found higher instances of brain cancer, leukemia and birth defects in children with early exposure to pesticides, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.” – Wikipedia

The question that commonly arises when comparing organic to conventional is whether the amount of pesticide residue on conventionally grown produce is harmful to humans. I think it depends on how much exposure you have on a daily basis.  You have to look at overall exposure from all sources not just a single apple or banana. For instance, our exposure to pesticides goes beyond eating conventionally grown food – thereby increasing the levels of exposure:

  • Food – Most of the foods we eat have been grown with the use of pesticides. Therefore, pesticide residues may be present inside or on the surfaces of these foods.
  • Home and Personal Use Pesticides – You might use pesticides in and around your home to control insects, weeds, mold, mildew, bacteria, lawn and garden pests and to protect your pets from pests such as fleas. Pesticides may also be used as insect repellants which are directly applied to the skin or clothing.
  • Pesticides in Drinking Water – Some pesticides that are applied to farmland or other land structures can make their way in small amounts to the ground water or surface water systems that feed drinking water supplies.

That said, let’s see how a couple of the fruits and vegetables listed on EWG’s list this year measured up in terms of pesticides detected.

Celery: The worst of the bunch with 95% of the samples tested showing pesticide residue and an average of almost 4 different types of pesticides detected. Total number of pesticides found across all the samples tested…67!!

Peaches: 96% tested positive for pesticides. Peaches had been treated with more pesticides than any other produce, registering combinations of up to 67 different chemicals.

Strawberries: We eat a lot of these in our house (organic and often home-grown!). 92.8% of the conventional Strawberries tested showed pesticide residue!

See the complete breakdown of data from this study on the website. Keeping these pesticides away from expectant moms as well as children is more important than ever, given the recent report that came out regarding how pesticides effect IQ:

“Three studies published last week, for example, found that children exposed to the highest levels of pesticides before birth had lower IQ scores than other kids.”

“The Berkeley study found that the most heavily exposed children scored an average of 7 points lower on IQ tests compared with children with the lowest pesticide exposures…”

“These pesticides are often used on crops, and people are exposed to them through eating fruits and vegetables, Eskenazi says.”

You be the judge. Organic Produce vs Conventional Produce: What do you want your kids eating?

**Note: Even if you continue to buy conventional produce over organic, you can lower your pesticide consumption by nearly four-fifths by avoiding the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables and instead eating the least contaminated produce, according to EWG calculations.

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