Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Organic Vs. Non-Organic

Believe it or not the term "dirty dozen" does not refer to the egg market. Which seems to be in hot water these days. It refers to the dirtiest (as in pesticide) fruits and vegetables at the market. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) suggests that a consumer can reduce their pesticide exposure by 80% by avoiding the most contaminated produce and selecting only the cleanest produce that are non-organic. The EWG has been publishing guides of the "dirty dozen" of most pesticide contaminated foods since 1995, based on statistical analysis of testing conducted by the USDA and the FDA. (By the way these tests were done after the produce was washed, rinsed and peeled, Yikes) In their most current list there is a handy little cut out that you can take shopping with you. In this PDF it also explains the potential harm pesticides have on the body, fetal development, and in early childhood development.

Here are some of the links to research connecting pesticide residue to potential health problems: Prostate Cancer, Childhood cancer, ADHD in children, Central nervious system, Menstrual cycle and many more.

The EPA estimates that 40 percent of children tested in CDC’s national biomonitoring study from 1999 to 2002 had amounts of OPs (organophosphate pesticides) in their bodies at levels exceeding standard margins of safety, relative to levels shown to be harmful in laboratory studies (Paynes-Sturges 2009). Another study in support of organic diets done by EHP proves that an organic diet significantly lowers children's exposure to Agricultural pesticides.Why are many studies on the effect of pesticide on human development done on children?  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency indicates that infants and children may be especially sensitive to the residue of pesticides for several reasons listed below,
  • Their internal organs are still developing and maturing,
  • In relation to their body weight, infants and children eat and drink more than adults, possibly increasing their exposure to pesticides in food and water.
  • Certain behaviors--such as playing on floors or lawns or putting objects in their mouths--increase a child's exposure to pesticides used in homes and yards.
What about non-organic produce from other countries? Many are not approved by the FDA and slip through customs as they are undetectable by the human eye, nose and taste buds. EWG writes,

Between 1996 and 2006, 1.6% of domestic crops violated pesticide safety standards in FDA inspections, while imported crops earned violations at 2.25 times that rate. FDA inspectors target suspected problems, but still inspect just a small fraction of produce on the market, and test for just a fraction of pesticides that could contaminate it. Many violating products likely make it to the produce aisle and the kitchen.

In conclusion, your diet does not have to be 100% organic.This information is gathered to enlighten and help consumers stay informed. We can all use a little extra cash these days. If you follow these four tips you can save money, eat cleaner and practice sustainable living.
  1. Use the Dirty Dozen list to shop for Organic produce (It is better to buy local  to reduce, "Think Globally, Eat Locally.")
  2. Supplement your diet with the Clean 15
  3. Shop for local product in farmers markets. Get to know your local farmers and ask what they use for pest control on their produce. Many small farmers do not use any pesticides or sprays but can not afford to be "Certified Organic".
  4. Grow your own produce, especially the dirty dozen.
Small steps toward a clean diet can make a big difference.

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