The Dirty Dozen of Food – Chemicals on Your Produce

by updated 2012/12/15

Quite a while ago, Consumer Reports had an article recommending a dozen foods that we should always buy organic. I have seen many lists of “the dirty dozen of food”, often with some differences between them. Some of the items make all the lists and are fairly well known for their high chemical residue level. I like the Consumer Reports list because they follow a guide put out by The Environmental Working Group that has a lot of research behind it. Although the Consumer Reports list was certainly accurate, it was published in alphabetical order. Here is that same list in the order that really matters, listed by highest chemical residue level first. In addition, I have also included links to descriptive lists of some of the specific pesticides, fungicides, etc., used on each of the foods. The number of different pesticides approved for use on some foods, is just staggering… and scary.

I also researched the FDA’s website for information on the actual levels of chemicals found in food. The FDA tests samples of food for both approved and unapproved chemicals. The reports the FDA have produced for public consumption in the past few years seem to contain little specific information and emphasize how much of the food supply tested falls within the FDA limits of tolerance. I guess they don’t want to get the citizenry too alarmed. But, as a consumer of organic foods, and an advocate for a safe, sustainable food supply, I want lists that tell me what is in my food, period. It is nice that the FDA can advertise when chemical residues are within their range of acceptable levels, but…psst, hey FDA… there is a problem with emphasizing that information. Many of us have a much different idea than yours of what level of poison is acceptable in the food we buy. The problem is that unless we test everything we put in our mouths, we can not be sure our food is clean. Further, the FDA can only test a very small percentage of our food. At least if we buy certified organic food, and the process works as intended, we can feel more certain we are not contributing to the use of these chemicals.

In the latest FDA report I could find, published in May, 2005, the FDA’s domestic testing program found acceptable levels of contamination with pesticides, (what the FDA calls “nonviolative” levels), in 49.2% of fruit tested, 28.9% of vegetables, 26% of grains, and 23.8% of seafood. Fruits and vegetables were found to be “violative” in 2 -3% of the samples. The FDA report also includes a category of food tested called “other”. In this category, almost 17% of the tested samples were found to violate FDA safe levels! Testing of imported fruits and vegetables found approximately the same level of contamination, but a higher percentage, (5.3% in fruit and 6.7% in vegetables), were found in violation of acceptable levels.

I also downloaded and reviewed a few of the database files the FDA used to compile the reports. It is too much to get into here, but reviewing the data was eye opening. Just one example…. Even though the FDA only samples a very small percentage of food sold to consumers, (6,766 samples from over 100 countries), they check those samples for a staggering, almost uncountable, number of chemicals. Even I was stunned at the number of different poisons that are used on food!

I did not find anything that shows the results of FDA testing for chemical fertilizer levels in food. I don’t know if I just did not locate information on fertilizers or if the FDA does not test for chemical fertilizer contamination. If I come across any data on fertilizers, I’ll do a write up on that. It maybe that the way plants take up and utilize nutrients makes it difficult to test for residues. If anyone reading this knows of a fertilizer testing program, please leave a comment so I can track it down. The compounds listed below seem to be mainly pesticides and fungicides.

The foods are rated 1 -100 with 1 being the lowest and 100 being the highest possible residue of chemicals. These 12 foods should be an organic purchase whenever possible.

Baby eating a peach Without further proselytizing, on to the list!

Peaches: Rating of 100. A no-brainer when you think about the soft, fuzzy, but porus skin a peach has. I am not surprised peaches were the worst. Anything sprayed on a peach is going to be there when you eat it, no matter how well you wash it. Definitly organic only! The top 50 chemicals used on peaches are listed here . The FDA also tests for the following which, I believe, are not aproved for use on peaches. Dinocap, Formetanate hydrochloride.

Apples: Rating of 89. The top 50 chemicals applied to apples are listed here. One batch of test performed on apples by the FDA detected 36 chemicals, close to 50% being neuro-toxins. The FDA also tests for the following which, I believe, are not aproved for use on apples. Prothiofos, Terbuthylazine, Dinocap, Formetanate hydrochloride, Propargite, Thiabendazole.

Bell Peppers: Rating = 86. The top 50 chemicals. More than 39 different pesticides have been found on bell peppers. On average, when tested, 68% of pepper samples contain measurable amounts of pesticides. In addition, fungicides and chemical ripening agents are found on some pepper samples.

Celery: Rating = 85. Top 50 chemicals. One study found pesticide residues on 94% of the celery tested.

Nectarines: Rating = 84. Top 50 chemicals. Tested for unapproved use: Formetanate hydrochloride. One study found pesticide residue on 97% of the nectarines tested.

Strawberries: Rating = 82. Top 50 chemicals. Tested for, but unapproved use: Benomyl, Formetanate hydrochloride. I am surprised to see strawberries are not at the top of the list. I leaned that strawberries are the most heavily treated crop in the U.S. covered with an average of 300 pounds of chemicals per acre. The average treatment rate for all crops is 25 pounds per acre. Strawberries must clean up well to get down to the 4th place on this list.

Cherries: Rating = 75. Top 50 chemicals. Cherries grown in the U.S. are have three times more pesticide residue than imported cherries.

Pears: Rating = 65. Top 50 chemicals. 4% of domestic and 10% or imported pears exceeded FDA approved levels of chemical comtamination.

Grapes (imported): Rating = 65. Top 50 chemicals. Atrazine, Dinocap, Simazine. I learned years ago that grapes were often had high levels of fungicides and pesticides on them. Although chemicals were found on 86% of the grapes tested, they are only 7th on this list. Domestic grapes were 19th with a rating of 43.

Spinach: Rating = 60. Top 50 chemicals. Although 8th on list list, one study conducted by the FDA found spinach to be one of the most commonly tainted crops. Some of the pesticides used on spinach are the most powerful toxins available. My guess is that this is because a common pest on spinach is the leaf miner. This fly lays its eggs on the underside of the spinach leaf. When the egss hatch, the larvae tunnel all around through the leaf, developing into quite juicy little worms. In my garden, once the leaf miner season starts, I check each spinach leaf I pick before it goes into my salad. Obviously commercial growers can’t do that, hence the heavy pesticide use. Anyone know how the organic commercial farmers grow spinach?

Lettuce: Rating = 59. Top 50 chemicals. This one stumps me. I have grown lettuce for over 30 years and have never witnessed a problem with bugs or disease. Even the leaf miner that attacks my spinach does not bother my lettuce. I will really have to find out what the conventional growers are going after with their use of chemicals on lettuce.

Potatoes: Rating = 58. Top 50 chemicals. Potato growers have reduced their use of pesticides a bit in recent years, but spraying for pests like the potato tuber moth is still common. Ironically, one of the things potatoes growers are looking for in their battle against pests in is the use of genetically modified seed potatoes. Oh, boy…………….

Carrots, green beans, cucumbers, raspberries, domestic grapes, and oranges all rated above 40 for chemical residue.

Onions and avocados were the best, both rated 1.

Update:  This is one of the most visited posts on this site.  In late 2011 I revisited all the information above and it still holds true.  I wish I could say that a couple of years of progress has been made in cleaning up our food supply, but sadly I can’t.  If you can, buy organic.  If you can’t get organic, at least try to buy local.  Knowing who your farmer or food producer is gives great peace of mind.

Will Sig
1 chaosgone

Nice list. I never thought about buying organic, but now I will consider it.

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2 Will

Thanks for the compliment, chaosgone! It is not always possible to get organic, but at least by reading this post, it is evident which fruits and vegetables are more important to eat organic. For example, I often can’t find organic pears, but don’t worry too much about eating conventional pears since they are down a bit on the list, are picked when hard and are easily washed. On the other hand, I only eat organic peaches. If they are not available, I just don’t eat peaches that day. Because lettuce is readily available organically and priced quite low, I only eat organic lettuce.

There are a few other articles on this site and more coming on similar topics. Here are a couple of interesting posts if you ever eat fish:

http://willtaft.com/environment/salmon-color-added/

http://willtaft.com/health/tainted-farmed-fish/

Thanks for visiting, reading, AND commenting!

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3 Tria

Great post. It terrifies me to think about what I may be unknowingly feeding my kids. We eat alot of fruit. From now on I will definitely be looking for organic. Thank you so much for the information.

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4 Brad Nay

Some great info you got here.

Thanks for joining the blogcatalog group!

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5 Jason

Dang, you are making me paranoid… I’m going to be washing the crap out of my fruits and veggies now.

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6 Will

“I’m going to be washing the crap out of my fruits and veggies now.”

Yeah – It is not only the chemicals but the animal waste that causes trouble. So your approach to washing is good both figuratively and literally! :-0

A little paranoid is good sometimes!

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7 Organic Baby Food

I guess fruits and veggies aren’t always the best for you… you really need to be selective when picking out those food groups, as these pesticides are rampant.

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8 Will

You know meat actually can have a high level of pesticide in it. Because the animal is higher up the food chain, in some cases the pesticides get more concentrated. I remember being surprised when I found out how contaminated some species of fish are. Striped Bass in SF Bay are one bad example. They are full of chemicals from the runoff of the agricultural land and from eating lots of smaller fish who are also contaminated.

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9 dan walsh

i have often thought this exact same thing. fish take it in and we eat them. but after reading lots of comments about all sorts of food i would starve to death! guess i will keep on eating the way i always have. not overweight and not sick. that will do me. the modern world is awash with chemicals and that is quite aside from food. we are the mercy of our time on earth.

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10 David Bradley

There is so much chemophobia about. Natural does not equal safe and synthetic does not equal dangerous. Moreover, the word organic simply means compounds based around carbon but excluding carbonates and simple compounds such as carbon dioxide.

David Bradleys last blog post..Young Scientists

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11 aytu

Great topic.Thanks for information.I’ll be careful for these.I love eating but i can’t stop mysely.I think,to stop myself is useful for me

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12 Vertigo Guy

Personally, I find non-organic lettuce and spinach always give me a severe stomach ache. I’m not sure what’s on them that causes my body to react that way, but it makes me more than a bit afraid to chow down on some chemical-laden greens.

Vertigo Guys last blog post..My vestibular loss is bilateral, not unilateral.

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13 Oli

Never really thought about it before, but I am surprised lettuce is so high up on that list! And really Apples? I always thought they seemed pretty safe!

Olis last blog post..Lula Belle’s Vegan Pancakes

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14 Janice

I am not surprised about the head of lettuce. I cannot even touch a head of lettuce with my hands. I instantly break out and start to ich. If I ate it god only knows what would happen. I have to eat the bagged lettuce without perservatives.

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15 Delma-fay

I just took a raw cooking class and never fully realized what was sprayed on sp called “healthy fruits and vegies”, I am definetly changing to organic produce. Thank you for the important information, i will pass it on.

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16 Will

Well Keith, I really don’t think being aware and even a bit scared of some of the chemicals in our food qualifies as a phobia. Phobias usually imply needless concern. I have never heard that about the carrots but I always get them organic since they are easily available and about the same price as treated carrots.

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17 Keith

One has to wonder about the chemical content in the processed foods that contain vegetables. I love V8 juice, but who really know the source and purity of their ingredients. Big agribusiness is probably more heavy handed with chemicals than the local farmer simply because the local guy usually has to live on the farm.

I have read several places not to eat non-organically grown carrots. In fact, they will supposedly absorb the chemicals out of the ground even if they are not treated in the current crop. So what is one supposed to do with them? If composted, the chemicals just go right back in the ground! On the other hand, carrots would be a good way to clean the chemicals out of a previously treated garden patch.

As for finding bugs in the garden, I consider it a good thing. I do not want to eat anything that a bug would not eat. Besides, the fish in my pond love it when I pick the worms off the tomato plants.

Chemophobic for good reason. By the way, dictionary.com says this about chemophobia: No results found for chemophobia. Now your post is stuffed for a non-existent keyword! If anybody is searching for it, you should get the click. ;)

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18 Barbara Barker

Those of you who are interested in organically growing a few of the foods from the dirty dozen list might like this guide:

Container Gardening for Health: The 12 Most Important Fruits & Vegetables for Your Organic Garden (ISBN: 0978629329)

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19 Mable

i want to know how i can easily test for chemicals in any store-bought vegetables and fruits. how can i conduct an experiment for this?

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20 Will

Hi Mable – As far as I know there is no way for you to test. I would avoid the types of produce high on this list unless you can get organic. For example, I never eat anything other than organic peaches, apples, and peppers. Fortunately these are easy to find and not too much more expensive than conventional, chemical treated varieties. I also only eat organic lettuce, grapes, and raisins. Other produce I just do my best to find organic, but don’t worry quite as much. For example I love broccoli and usually organic is readily available. If it is not, I will purchase non-organic broccoli as testing has shown it is usually quite low or even free of chemical residue.

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21 Stella

I’m very concerned with healthy living and eating. That’s why I’m suggesting this new book I’ve been reading about on the web. It’s called “Looking Good Naked” and it’s a guide to changing your eating habits for the better and improving your physical appearance as a result. It’s peaked my interest and I’m sure others might find it intriguing and useful as well.

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22 Garden Sheds

Organic seems like the only way to go. If you want to know exactly what you’re getting in/on your vegetables then there is no other choice. This is the reason that I bake my own bread these days too… I like knowing what is going in (not as much salt and no week long preserving chemicals etc)

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23 Hannes

As much as possible we should take in organic fruits and vegetables. Commercially produced fruits and veggies only provides us significant problems in the future. While we benefited from the vitamins we get from commercially-produced plants, the side effects greatly outweighs the benefits. So as much as possible, stay organic.

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24 A Green Lady

One of the biggest myths about chemicals on our food is that you can wash it off. Certainly washing your fruits and vegetables is a good practice, it does not remove all of the chemicals. Farmers often use a process called fumigation which is the practice of spraying the chemicals in a fine mist. This mist is readily absorbed by the product and thus cannot be washed off. Another problem is that the chemicals are sprayed over the plants and end up in the soil where they are absorbed by the root system.
Eliminating these offenders or buying organic is your best bet and your healthiest.
A Green Lady
http://agreenlady.com
.-= A Green Lady´s last blog ..Going Green This Easter =-.

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25 JD at I Do Things

Dang. Good thing I hate fruit.

No, seriously, this really makes it clear that organic, in many cases, is the way to go.

But I really do hate fruit.
.-= JD at I Do Things´s last blog ..I Hit “Reply” so you don’t have to =-.

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26 Liz from Simple Italian Cooking

This was also in a recent article in Prevention magazine about this. I found it interesting that although green peppers are a no no for organic, sweet bell peppers are less prone because insects don’t like the taste. And nectarines are better than peaches because it’s harder for fungus to grow on the fuzz. I peel everything pretty much. Lettuce I always buy organic.

Thanks for the post.

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27 Jordan

So, basically you should buy all your fruits and veggies organic to be on the safe side. It seems more and more these days, our food supplies are being tainted.

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28 RAWkin' RAw Vegan

Glad to see avos and onions are rated 1. I eat tons of avos!

This is a great reminder to stick with organic as much as possible. Buy for QUALITY not quantity.
RAWkin’ RAw Vegan recently posted..Reserve your spot in the kitchen now for my RAWkin’ RAW Food Classes!My Profile

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29 FedUp

“There is so much chemophobia about. Natural does not equal safe and synthetic does not equal dangerous. Moreover, the word organic simply means compounds based around carbon but excluding carbonates and simple compounds such as carbon dioxide. ”

WELL SAID!!!!!!
Organic means so many things on so many levels and it’s not a regulated term.

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30 Will

Actually it is a regulated term. The thing is that many of us want to know what is on, or not on, our food. Certified organic is one way to have some knowledge. An even better way is to buy local as much as possible and know something about your farmer.

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31 Steve Denning

It’s all a little confusing: what’s ‘organic’ & where the loop-holes are such that mega-production is able to claim ‘organic’ as their own. In practice though, wisdom remains relatively simple: know your farm.
Food Alliance (of several sustainability certification organizations) provides some sense of integrity: here’s what the Food Alliance certifies (for example): http://foodalliance.org/certification/program/our-standards/reducing-pesticide-usage/?searchterm=pesticides.
The local farm we frequent (Portland, OR) continues to prize and honor their certification: http://www.thepumpkinpatch.com/produce.html
Steve Denning recently posted..Adopting a Healthy LifestyleMy Profile

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32 sakura

Another problem is that the chemicals are sprayed over the plants and end up in the soil where they are absorbed by the root system.
Eliminating these offenders or buying organic is your best bet and your healthiest.
sakura recently posted..Diet Golongan DarahMy Profile

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33 TheHealthEducator

Thank you for doing this research as part of education for the people. I agree with the comments;
Even ‘organics’ is suspect but offers a high percentage alternative to the traditional chemical system of shelf life food.
We teach to eat locally grown and in-season foods from local markets where the produce is usually picked the night before.
Definitely wash all food before eating in a solution of water and tsp of salt – regardless of where it comes from.
And know that the body is self-healing. If we do inadvertently partake of a ‘poison’ – the body will recognize this and always attempt to eliminate and excrete the poison – or lay it down where it will do the least harm.
When, and if, symptoms do arise – learn how to conserve energy (fasting) and allow the body to go through it’s detox cycle.

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34 Will

“We teach to eat locally grown and in-season foods from local markets where the produce is usually picked the night before.”

Good advice Kevin! Know your farmer as I say! And wash all your produce before eating. Even if you grew it yourself.

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35 dillon

Im just gonna start growing my own crops and chickens and cows then you know what’s going into your food I did it before and ill do it again it may be expensive but at. Least you won’t have any serious health problems in the long run this is all part of new world order even the water isn’t safe that’s why we get ours off of our own water system know that Iv been drinking the normal city water and what do you know a cancerous growth in my kidney and I’m only 18 fuck that I even get chest pains and eatting food from the food market at Walmart I gained 25 pounds so I dont know what there putting In the food but it isn’t safe so yeah

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36 Jodi

Hi! I am wondering about hot house peppers? I have always been curious about why sweet peppers are on the list when so many of them are grown in hot houses. Is it possibly the fertilizer residue? I don’t know very much about hot house farming but I always imagined that they would need to use less chemicals to control pests. I would love more info on this.

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37 Will

Hi Jodi – Yeah the fertilizer is an issue, but they also use chemicals to control whitefly ans aphid in the greenhouse. There are even chemicals to preserve the color, though they are used mainly on dried peppers.

Peppers are waxed with food grade wax that you can’t wash off. The chemicals are trapped under the wax. It is the wax that puts peppers so high on the list because it prevents you from properly cleaning the pepper before eating.

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38 Barbara Barker

I guess the wax most likely does trap some of the chemicals on cucumbers, but the USDA/FDA test results were on food “washed and prepared for eating”. I believe the produce tested was peeled, chopped, etc.

Author, Container Gardening for Health: The 12 Most Important Fruits & Vegetables for Your Organic Garden (ISBN: 0978629329)

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39 Will

Yeah I guess if you peeled your peppers you would get rid of a lot of it. Washing does not remove the wax. I have even tried using hot water and soap with no luck. Some foods, like peaches are bad for reasons of growth habit. You could peel them also, but I would rather just purchase organic.

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40 Barbara Barker

Sorry- I meant peppers. You’re right, it’s hard to get the wax off…
Since the USDA/FDA said they washed and prepared them for eating, I think the peppers would still have chemicals on them even without the wax.

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41 Jodi

Thank you for the info. We eat about 60/40 organic to not right now and will have to start pushing that even more now.

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42 Ana326lia

This is gross. I’m not eating grocery store produce for a long time.

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43 Rado

Hi Will, I don’t know how long ago you’ve created this page but Mate it is well put. A couple of years ago, we have published a printable list of artificial food additives. I try to avoid to eat where preservatives, colors or flavors as due to the chemical intolerance I have, those hyperactivity creating chemicals keep me from pleasant sleep at night. Please say hallo if you visit us. Thank you, Rado.
Rado recently posted..By- All the names of bad food additivesMy Profile

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44 Hillary

I am a bit surprised to see that only fruits and vegetables were on there and not eggs, meat or any fish. intersting.
Hillary recently posted..Rescue 911 – 2nd Pilot-Episode 113 – “Dog Rescue”My Profile

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45 Will

Hi Hillary – That is because this is looking at chemical residues on the food. Meat, for example can have antibiotics or hormones in the meat itself. Small semantic difference, I know, but that is why. You are correct to be concerned about meat, egg, and fish contamination. This survey just did not cover those items.

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46 Hillary

That makes sense. Thanks for the further explanation.
Hillary recently posted..Rescue 911 – 2nd Pilot-Episode 113 – “Dog Rescue”My Profile

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47 Anthony Vincent Samsel

Organic Farming being taken over by the BIG BIOTECH & CHEMICAL industry ?
KNOW YOUR SOURCE ALERT !
Yes eat Organic fruits & Vegetables whenever possible but Know Your Source !
The Organic Farming Rules need to be protected from the chemical companies who want in on a growing market. Many of the approved materials for organic farming are already being synthesized and patented. We must put a stop to those that would pervert Natural materials to Un-natural synthetic materials for selfish gain.
Organic pesticides used in Organic Farming include botanicals, microbials, synthetics and minerals. Botanicals are supposed to be plant-derived materials such as rotenone, pyrethrum, sabadilla, ryania, etc. Botanicals are generally broad-spectrum and kill beneficial insects too. Many are now produced synthetically
Microbial pesticides are formulated from microorganisms or their by-products. They have advantages over botanicals, they are safer to use, and target selective, so beneficials are not harmed. Bacillus thuringiensis or B.t. is the most widely used type of microbial insecticide. BT contains a toxin that has expanded organic pest control effectiveness for insects including the Colorado potato beetle, cabbage worm and corn borer.
Commercial Bacillus thuringiensis has been genetically altered and is not the BT touted by “Organic Gardening Magazine’ in the 60′s for organic gardeners.
BT sold to Organic Farmers is now GENETICALLY MODIFIED and more super strains are being developed. Again there has been little to no testing of these materials. They are being Fast tracked to market.
Residues of BT are in question and their effects are not fully understood.
The major types of B.t. are the ‘kurstake’ strain for caterpillar pests (Dipel, Javelin, Thuricide, MVP, etc.) and the ‘San Diego’ or ‘tenebrionis’ strain for potato beetle larvae (M-One, M-Trak, Beetle Beater, Novodor, etc

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48 Anthony Vincent Samsel

Imidacloprid Warning !

Your only safety in buying fresh produce is to KNOW YOUR SOURCE !

This pesticide does not wash off, and it does not peel off. It is absorbed into the fruits and vegetables making them TOXIC to insects and YOU! It affects Thyroid gland and in birds causes soft weak shells like the effects from DDT which Rachel Carson wrote about in ‘Silent Spring’.
It is used on Stone fruits like peaches & the following: Bananas, Grapes, Lettuce, Eggplant, tomatoes, beets, cabbage, & Brassicas, cucumbers, melons, potatoes, Rice, Hops, grains and other food crops as well as cotton and ornamental plants and trees.

Bayer Crop Science Division of Bayer, a multi national corporation markets ‘ IMIDACLOPRID’ Insecticide’ worldwide. This material should not be on the market. It is a systemic pesticide that works similar to the Dupont/Bayer material Temik. It is absorbed by the plant rendering it toxic to insects. It can spread in groundwater, water runoff from crop applications, drift etc. It renders all parts of the plant toxic including the plants pollen and kills countless numbers of bees annually.

It is sold to homeowners in lawn care products to kill grubs as Grubex (Scott products & others), as a systemic houseplant insecticide, and as a flea and tick systemic for dogs and cats in the product Advantage.

It’s one of the most toxic insecticides to honeybees with a contact acute LD50 = 0.078 ug a.i./bee and an acute oral LD50 = 0.0039 ug a.i./bee.
It is sold commercially as Confidor, Kohinor, Admire, Advantage (Advocate) pet flea & tick, Gaucho, Mallet, Merit, Nuprid, Prothor, Turfthor, Conguard, Hachikusan, Premise, Prothor, Provado and Winner and the Thiacloprid product as Calypso.

Forget about the safe list, KNOW YOUR SOURCE !

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49 Lynda

You have probably listed all of my favourites growing up-no wonder I am not as healthy as I should be considering the number of fruits and vegies I do eat-and I like the skins as well (all of that apple pectin and fibre you know). I live on a small island-just 36 square kilometres but, even here, there is a concerned group who are trying to raise enough money to buy land so that we can be a bit more agriculturally self-sufficient. And, we do have a wonderful farmer’s market from Easter until Thanksgiving so I do have access to more of the local, organic produce than I used to. Nutritionally, this is a far better choice as well. The shorter distance to the consumer preserves far more of the nutrients in any produce-if your carrot has traveled 3000 kilometres to get to your dinner plate the nutrients that you think are there got off the truck days ago. And there is just so much that we do not know. It is also clear that if our grocers just say that something is “imported” then we have to insist on knowing from where; standards vary from country to country and range anywhere from none to relatively accessible if you really research the topic. And for those mentioning meat and fish, etc.-I can’t comment except for fish-the Monterrey Bay Aquarium in California will send you a small wallet card listing which fish are red, green, or yellow choices based on where it was produced. For example, tilapia from South-east Asia is farmed in such polluted water that it is practically toxic. And larger tuna species have had time to build up more pollutants and other nasty toxins than the smaller tuna which are harvested at a younger age and smaller size so they contain a bit less-emphasis on a bit. As an adult I will eat this occasionally but I would not give it to a child. Plus, I would be saving them from all of those tuna casserole recipes!! It just shows that we really can’t take anything for granted. Chickens are being bred to produce larger breasts because boneless, skinless chicken breasts are in every healthy cookbook on the market. And, remember, buy ugly fruit and vegies-the beautiful, picture-perfect ones are grown and treated to be that way-they are far from natural.

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50 Jan

Hi Will
I think we live in a pretty scary world at the moment, our food chain is so degraded, the soils depleted and our food sprayed with chemicals. Add to that the processed rubbish sold as “food”, no wonder the world’s health is suffering with obesity and illness. I guess we can only do our best by trying to eat as healthily as we can and buying organic where we can. I am very lucky where I live in Brisbane as there are still some local farmers so we do get some locally grown produce with hopefully not too many chemicals!

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51 Cynthia Bova

Will you mention the stripebass being contaminated by pesticides in the San Fran bay. In Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor Wa .,Since 1964 most shellfish farmers spray carbaryl (sevin) to target and kill ghost and mud shrimp. Also our gov has declared an all out chemical war against spartina grass(smooth cord)They have been spraying round-up over and over for 16years in our estuaries. Please do an article about this deliberate polluting killing our oceans!

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52 Cynthia Bova

My letter to the Editor:
Between accidental spills and deliberate polluting, marine life doesn’t have a chance!
After researching gray whale migrations following the recent wave of apparent starvation deaths, it became clear to this whale watcher what is probably happening. Since the beginning of time these massive creatures migrated along our coast feeding in and out of estuaries on mud and ghost shrimp. Today however, a powerful and greedy Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association somehow acquired a free pass since 1964 to chemically eradicate shrimp in Willapa Bay and Grays harbor, Wa. The shrimp populations have been decimated to near extinction! Take two large estuaries out of the equation and, well, your getting the pictures!( DEAD WHALES and DWINDLING SALMON RUNS )
Here’s the kicker; The state Department of Ecology is still giving out permits to aerial spray carbaryl and round-up for more shrimp and grass control! PLEASE RESEARCH! We are not making this up! Save a whale and possibly yourself, DON’T EAT PCSGA CHEMICAL FLAVORED OYSTERS and CLAMS!

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53 Propagator

Just wanted to say thank you Will. This is a thought provoking blog. Well said my friend.

-Propagator

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54 Michelle

Hi Will, thanks for researching and writing this article. I am currently studying Organic Agriculture and have discovered in the past 6 months just how many nasty chemicals are routinely sprayed on our foods. I was always under the impression, as many people are, that you could wash these chemicals off once you got home. However, I now know that many of the chemicals used to prevent fruit fly, fungus etc are what is called SYSTEMIC – and these chemicals actually penetrate the entire fruit/vegetable and cannot be washed off…Ever wondered why there is no fruit fly on your fruit and veg and the supermarket? Additionally, have you ever wondered why Organic Produce in supermarkets is always wrapped in so much packaging (it is here in Australia) – this is because Supermarkets routinely let off Bug Bombs at night to kill spiders, cockroaches etc and in order for Organic Produce to be truly Organic it must be packaged heavily so it is not sprayed by these Bug Bombs…but everything else sitting on those shelves that is not packaged is going to be covered in these chemicals too!
I only eat Organic produce these days. I have been to some fruit packaging places and seen first hand the Systemic sprays used, I have also been meeting dozens of farmers lately, many of whom have converted to Organic Farming after watching their fathers and brothers become sick and die early as a result of chemical induced illnesses because they grew up thinking chemicals were safe and essential to increasing food production on their farms.
I believe that all chemicals used in the production of our foods should be listed clearly so that when we buy it we are informed, rather than groups like the FDA deciding what is safe for us to ingest.
Cheers
Michelle

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55 Will

Hi Michelle – I like your site. And love the bathroom with the valley view in your September field trip post.

I am shocked to think that the bug bombs at night in supermarkets might be anything other than an urban myth! Our organic produce here in the States is not usually wrapped.

Yes labeling is a critical issue that I have written about a few times. The problem is that the big corporate food business really fight it because they know an educated consumer will make educated choices.

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56 Wendy

Hi, just wondering if the chemicals are reduced much if you peel the fruits and vegies? Thanks Wendy

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57 Anthony Samsel

Peeling fruits and vegetables will NOT remove todays most widely used systemic pesticides. These chemicals become an integral part of the food through absorption and are attached to the plant. Temik, Clothianadin and Imidaclocloprid are the most widely used systemic insecticides on the planet.
They are used on Coffee, Bananas, Grapes, Lettuce, Eggplant, Tomatoes, Beets, Cabbage, & Brassicas, Cucumbers, Melons, Potatoes, Rice, Hops, Grains, stone fruits like peaches and many more food crops as well as cotton and ornamental plants and trees.
Organic is best, know your source !

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58 Wendy

Our whole existance is bombarded with chemicals. It is hard to escape it. No wonder cancer is everywhere. Trying to buy something from a supermarket that is actually chemical free would be almost impossible, not to mention expensive. Trying to do this whilst bring up a young family is extra challenging. Thanks for all your info. I will keep learning and trying.

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59 Will

Hi Wendy – Unfortunately that is an “it depends” question and answer. If depends on the type of produce. It also depends on the kind of chemical, how much, and when it was used. It is critical to wash all produce before you eat it. Besides chemical residue, produce, even triple washed lettuce, is often not that clean.

If you have any concern at all about chemicals on your produce, then organic is a good choice. If you live in and area where you can know and trust local producers, then ask about your food and how it is produced.

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60 Monica Weber

Thank you for providing us the list. Luckily, I’m not fond of eating pears but I do eat apples and grapes and that worries me. I never thought it contains chemicals even when they look so fresh and healthy to eat. I am aware of the fact now and I should start building my own garden soon so that I could eat organic vegetables and fruits!

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61 Jane

Wow! I never thought that so many fruits, most of them I eat, are high in chemical residue. Too bad I am not into avocados when it was supposed to be one of the least affected. It was so nice of you to create such a list. Thank you!

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62 buah untuk diet

Will you mention the stripebass being contaminated by pesticides in the San Fran bay. In Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor Wa .,Since 1964 most shellfish farmers spray carbaryl (sevin) to target and kill ghost and mud shrimp. Also our gov has declared an all out chemical war against spartina grass(smooth cord)They have been spraying round-up over and over for 16years in our estuaries. Please do an article about this deliberate polluting killing our oceans!

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63 Mary

Good digging and reporting, Will! Organic is important not just for us, but for the farmworkers who can be contaminated while handling the pesticides and for animals who are affected by it on the farm (such as flocks of birds). Even though I cook almost everything from scratch, my grocery bills aren’t particularly low because I buy so much organic produce. I guess I look at it as part of my contribution toward the environment.
Mary recently posted..Winter Jewel Salad with Pomegranate VinaigretteMy Profile

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64 Ronni

As a Certified Nutrition Educator, I am very conscious of the food I consume. As of January 2012, The Dirty Dozen/Clean Fifteen list has been updated http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/ You can download the list which you can cut out and carry with you. I have one the has a list of fish that are overfished and the levels of mercury in each. I carry the card in purse, although I have pretty much memorized it.
To be brief, apples are now #1 followed (in order of pesticide level) by:
celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach, nectarines-imported, sweet bell peppers, potatoes, blueberries-domestic, lettuce and kale/collard greens.
You can also sign up for email updates and environmental tips. They also a cosmetic safety database containing health hazards and toxins according to brand.

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65 Ahli Herbal

Potatoes should be organic too? Ok, i agree. But how to tell if the French Fries that we buy somewhere is from organic one, and not a non-organic one? You see, it’s so hard to tell from just using our eyesight.

Do we only need to trust what the seller says about their stuffs? Many thanks!

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66 Bea

Sometimes it is really scary to think about the toxic stuff we’ve eaten up during the years… I wish I was more open-minded before, when I used to eat a huge amount of junk food every day when I was a student. In the last couple of years I’ve tried to cook healthier and I always prefer organic whole food instead of the things listed above. Thanks for this great article, I’m going to memorize all the dangerous stuff;)

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67 tyler

Ok, a very basic question here. I try to buy organic produce as much as possible, usually from Whole Foods here in NYC. However, I get confused when I have to choose between an organic tomato from South America and a non-organic tomato from upstate NY. While it does say “organic” (not “USDA organic”; apparently there are many institutes that provide organic certification), my understanding is that the enforcement may be loose.
So, which one : non-local organic or local non-organic?

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