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Organic vs. Conventional: Knowing Your Pesticide Load

Every year, new research is published demonstrating the toxicity of pesticides to human health and the environment, often at doses previously declared "safe" by the pesticide industry and the government.

As acknowledged by the U.S. and international government agencies, different pesticides have been linked with a variety of toxic effects, including:

  • Nervous system effects
  • Carcinogenic effects
  • Hormone system effects
  • Skin, eye and lung irritation

Pesticides are unique among the chemicals we release into the environment; they have inherent toxicity because they are designed to kill living organisms, insects, plants, and fungi that are considered "pests." Because they are toxic by design, many pesticides pose health risks to people, risks that have been acknowledged by independent research scientists and physicians across the world.

Organic versus Non-organic

Fruit and vegetables to buy organic:

Apples - pesticides are found on apples and washing does not necessarily help.

Apricots, nectarines, and peaches - highly likely to contain pesticide residue.

Beets - beets are thin-skinned and grow underground and can absorb pesticides and heavy metals.

Carrots - carrots are good at absorbing heavy metals from the soil.

Bell Peppers & Hot peppers -multiple pesticide residues.

Celery - celery has no protective skin making it difficult to wash off all the chemicals.

Cherries - sprayed many times during their growth cycle therefore various pesticides and chemicals are used.

Collard greens, salad greens, Swiss Chard - leafy greens tend to have high chemical residues because they grow so close to the ground.

Cucumbers - organophosphate are used on conventionally grown cucumbers making them highly toxic.

Green beans - numerous pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides are used on green beans; they are also sprayed multiple times during their growth cycle.

Spinach - According to the FDA, 60% of nonorganic spinach contains pesticide, herbicide, and fungicide residue, DDT, and permethrin.

Almonds - Almond trees are sprayed with toxic herbicides and pesticides.

Peanuts - peanuts grow underground therefore are susceptible to absorb toxins from the soil.

Pecans - pecan trees are sprayed with numerous chemicals: pesticides, herbicides, and miticides.

Soy Foods -  very toxic pesticides are used to grow conventional soybeans.

Strawberries - if purchased out of season, most likely imported from a country with little laws about pesticide use. In addition, according to USDA's pesticide Data Program strawberries exceed tolerable levels.

Raspberries - buy locally -raspberries contain pesticide and fungicide residue.

Tomatoes - Always buy local tomatoes -okay to buy nonorganic if they are local.

Zucchini - although, zucchini does not tolerate pesticides and herbicides the pesticides used on this crop are known carcinogens.

Butter - pesticide residue loves fat...butter is all fat.

Eggs - buy local, organic, cage free, free roaming eggs -benefit: 1/3 less cholesterol, 1/4 less saturated fat, 2/3 more vitamin A, 2x more Omega 3 fatty acids, 3 x more vitamin E, 7 x more beta carotene.

Milk & yogurt - best to buy organic to avoid growth hormones and antibiotics.

Fruit and vegetables okay to buy Non-organic.

Asparagus - rarely treated with pesticides.

Avocados - thick skin -rinse before slicing.

Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, & Cauliflower - pesticides do not work well with these vegetables.

Bananas - due to their thick skin okay to purchase nonorganic.

Cashews - where these are grown pesticides are rarely used.

Sweet Corn - although it may be sprayed with chemicals sweet corn almost never contains residue.

Eggplant - all varieties of eggplants are sprayed minimally therefore rarely contains pesticide residue.

Garlic - natural pest control.

Onions -same as garlic. Contains natural pest control and are rarely sprayed.

Rhubarb - The leaves of rhubarb are toxic therefore there is no need to spray.

Sweet potatoes - sweet potatoes do not like pesticides therefore rarely used.

Dried beans - sprayed with insecticide however beans are rinsed, soaked, and boiled therefore leaving very little residue.

Winter Squash - okay to buy nonorganic if you do not eat the skin. If you are planning on eating the skin buy organic because nonorganic squash is coated with an oily wax.

Watermelon - pesticides are used sparingly.

Sources: collaboration of the following -Vegetarian Times September 2008 page 54, Environmental Working Group, The Daily Green, USDA, and Center for Science in the Public Interest.


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