Industrial agriculture has brought a dependence on chemical solutions to the challenges of crop production. Instead of Integrated Pest Management, broad-spectrum pesticides are routinely used as the first and only line of defense.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) analyzed data from pesticide testing carried out by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration. 48 fruits and vegetables were rated using a combination of six parameters (e.g. number of different pesticides, average amount, percent of samples with residues).
Here are 10 conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables that had the highest levels of pesticide residue. Buy organic if possible, or better yet from a local organic farmer.
7. Sweet bell peppers
8. Nectarines (imported)
For detailed information on what pesticides are found on what fruits and vegetables, as well as their health effects, visit What’s On My Food?
As EWG points out, their report does not mean you shouldn’t eat these fruits and vegetables. And proponents of industrial agriculture will be quick to point out that none of the levels exceeded federal standards. However, federal regulations do not account for additive effects (ingestion from multiple sources) and synergistic effects (the effect of one chemical amplifies the effect of the other chemical).
We are exposed to pesticides and other chemicals in the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe. People in rural areas near non-organic farms are more exposed. In the U.S., regulations amount to “innocent until proven guilty.” Only when the chemical shows obvious effects years later does it get banned or restricted, and only when this kind of information is not squelched by industry and government.
Local food usually has far less of the pesticide and chemical residues than their mass-produced counterparts because local food is not stored and shipped long distances, which requires fungicide application or other treatments like chemicals that control ripening.
As with so many food problems, buying local and growing our own is the best thing we can do as a solution.
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