by Elizabeth Renter
Why do you buy organic? If you’re like most organic-shoppers, you are concerned about the abundance of pesticide toxins sprayed on conventionally grown crops. More than likely, you take it for granted that foods with the organic label are exposing you to fewer of the toxins. Well a recent study only affirms this perspective, that organics are a smart way to reduce your pesticide exposure when compared with traditionally grown produce.
As reported by the Cornucopia Institute, the study came from Charles Benbrook and Brian Baker, who analyzed data from the USDA’s Pesticide Data Program. Published in the journal Sustainability, the work specifically looked at pesticide measurements gathered between 2002 and 2011.
More than 1,000 samples tested during this time contained some pesticide residue. Some of this residue was potentially harmful (possibly even lowering intelligence), while others are organic pesticides or present in very low levels. Even in crops designated as organic, conventional pesticides can be found in low amounts due to environmental contamination.
The researchers divided the pesticide residues into four classifications: legacy pesticides used in the past like DDT that are no longer used but may still be present in the environment; post-harvest pesticides applied to conventional crops for preservation; pesticides allowed in organic crop production; and conventional pesticides not allowed or only allowed in trace amounts in organic crops.
Of the pesticides detected: “(1) 15% were legacy contaminants, (2) 28.9% were post-harvest pesticides, (3) 21.9% were allowed organic pesticides, and (4) 34.2 % were other conventional pesticides.”
With more than 34 percent listed as conventional pesticides, one may be initially alarmed. But, as the Cornucopia Institute reports, “current methods of analysis can detect extremely low levels of pesticides.”
“The authors put the data into perspective by using a “Dietary Risk Index” that takes into account both the level of residue and the toxicity of the pesticide. Most of the residues were incidental and low risk, such as the allowed residues of organic pesticides, and the inadvertent residues of legacy pesticides. The samples with a high Dietary Risk Index were combined with samples where direct contamination was suspected, for a total of 15.2% of the samples. These were classified as high priority for action by the NOP and organic certifiers. Focusing on the highest risk cases would be an effective way to protect organic integrity.”
In conclusion, the researchers determined that organic crops do in fact have significantly lower pesticide residues than conventional crops. To see the ‘dirtiest’ or ‘cleanest’ fruits and veggies in 2014, check out the Environmental Working Group’s research showing the 15 cleanest and 12 most pesticide-laden produce.