Pesticides and Food

Every year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases its annual report on the “Dirty Dozen.” The report outlines information on pesticides and food, specifically the fruits and vegetables that contain the highest levels of pesticides. Not only are the worst 12 ranked, but the cleanest 15 are also ranked. This report causes us to answer the question, Are the health benefits of eating fruits and vegetables worth exposing ourselves to harmful pesticides? Also, is “organic” really better since pesticides aren’t used?

Pesticides and Food |

Often in food protection we talk about threats to food safety associated with foodborne illness, but misuse of pesticides can be just as deadly. Pesticides are used to protect our food from insects, but if too much are used, pesticides can cause serious health problems to people and especially children.

Insecticides (bug killers), herbicides (weed killers) and fungicides (fungus killers) are all pesticides. So are rodenticides and antimicrobials. Pesticides come in spray cans, crop dusters, household cleaners, hand soaps and swimming pools. Pesticides have been linked to birth defects, cancer, autism and ADHD.

It’s extremely important to control the use of these chemicals to make sure harmful levels are not used. The EPA has a program to do just that.

The EWG report doesn’t reveal any smoking guns. All of the food tested had pesticide residue well below the legal exposure limit set by the EPA. Apples and celery had the highest pesticide levels, and onions and corn had the lowest. Even at low levels, many people think it’s still an unnecessary risk to expose people to pesticides.

There are many alternatives to using pesticides, and the people at the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) are trying to get the word out. PAN dispels the many myths associated with pesticide use and outlines what actions should be taken to lower use. PAN has a difficult battle since some of the most powerful companies in the world are in the pesticide business, such as Monsanto, Dow, DuPont and BASF. These companies have a lot of influence and control over the farming industry. Check out what one farmer says about Monsanto’s business practices.

It’s hard to say which way is better, but with all the evidence out there on the harmful effects of pesticides, maybe we should be moving in the direction of limited use. People who are concerned about the amount of pesticides in their food should get involved and educate themselves on the issues. Pesticides are designed to kill, and no one should be surprised when that actually happens.

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Originally published on 7.9.12

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