Poorganics, Produce, and Pesticides

This is after three months in the ground . . . so depressing. The low autumn sun just can't fight my treeline of beastly pines. GRRR.

Now that Farmers’ Market season is over and my sunless garden is producing, um, NOTHING, I’m having to re-visit my thoughts on produce, pesticides, and poorganics.

I recently visited ALDI, where I purchased the pictured items, mainly produce, for $50. Buying the same items at my regular grocery store, where I could have found about half of this organically would have cost me $99. (I don’t know what the Trader Joes or Earth Fare price would have been, but I’m darn sure it isn’t $50 since I got 2 lbs of fish for $10.)

Eating Poorganically means that, a little bit at a time, I have to make decisions based on a cost-benefit ratio.  How much it costs vs. the benefit to our health.  When I first started this process, I read a lot about pesticides on produce, I naturally decided to try to buy at least the dirty dozen (see here) organic.

However, I’ve changed my mind, mostly because of the persistent schmorganics of my sister AND my own reasonableness.  She kept pushing me to show her why pesticides were really BAD.  Because, you see, I quickly realized that I had been sucked into sharing an assumption that pesticides were BAD without really investigating them.

NOW, I am not a researcher, so reading data and interpreting statistics are not necessarily my forte, but I just feel that the “better be safe than sorry” approach is no longer realistic for me.  To begin with, the approach of the organic produce advocates BEGINS with the assumption that residual pesticide–even the amount remaining after washing and being misted at the supermarket–is dangerously bad for you.  BUT I cannot find one single iota of evidence to support this assumption. 

Here’s my summary.

1. I CANNOT find a study conducted on PEOPLE that links residual pesticide ingestion on conventional produce with ANY health problem.

2.  The studies that I have found and attempted to read link LARGE amounts of pesticide with health problems.  These amounts are not anywhere close to the amounts that might residually exist on produce on supermarket shelves–even if you got extremely unlucky and picked the most heavily sprayed item from the dirty dozen, ate 10 of them, and never washed your produce, you would still be eating less than what is proven to be bad.

3. The studies that I’ve seen conducted on people found problems among farmers and those who were actually physically present for the handling or applying of the pesticides to the produce.  Also, people who lived in homes adjacent to a field that was crop-dusted occasionally experienced problems. All the health problems experienced by people, seem to come from large scale AIRBORN pesticide inhalation–not ingestion. (Though I’m not saying to let your kids drink Round-up. Do you get the distinction I’m making?)

4. Studies that indicate pesticide ingestion causes ADD, ADHD, neurological, or fertility issues are conducted upon mice who ingest HUGE amounts of pesticides and show problems.  Also, mice show problems when they eat lots of sugar and more than 6 hot dogs a week.  So, my take away is not to let my kids eat tons of hot dogs and wash it down with Round-up.

5. Evidence that pesticides leech into the soil and become incorporated into the plant are speculative.  Chemical analysis DOES reveal there are traces of “toxins” in the plants, but not at levels that are remotely dangerous. Moreover, there is still no evidence these trace amounts are problematic to health.

6. I ACTUALLY found an article indicating that canned, juiced, or frozen convention produce is even less likely to contain trace chemicals, which confirms my belief that WASHING, PEELING, or BLANCHING your produce makes it as virtually the same as its organic counterpart.

My conclusion, I would rather spend money on conventional produce because I think the likelihood of getting sick from washed conventional produce is INSANELY remote. Cost and health are my main considerations.

This is not to say that I wouldn’t prefer farm grown local produce when given the option because it is fresher, cheaper, and better for my local economy.  Also, there is NO DOUBT that pesticides aren’t great for the environment, so organic is more environmentally friendly, but (don’t shoot) the environment isn’t my main concern, though I do care about it.  Therefore, if you CAN afford organic produce, BUY IT. You are supporting organic farming, which is wonderful. I have no problems with that; I just can’t afford it myself and am done worrying about it.

For those of you who have the time to make me look like an idiot, here’s a FEW of the articles that I read below.  Most of these articles are written by the OPPOSITE point of view from mine, so I was reading them looking for convincing evidence that I was LIKELY to harm myself or my children by eating conventional produce.  I didn’t find it, but maybe you will.  Also read the comments on these to see what a “passionate” group of people are interested in this. 😉

Pesticides and Produce – Eartheasy.com Solutions for Sustainable Living.

Pesticide Exposure, Safety Issues, and Risk Assessment Indicators

Less Pesticide Residue on Organic Produce

Organic Vs. Conventional Produce

What do you think? What kind of produce do YOU buy? Can anyone prove me wrong? (Please don’t. I can’t afford it.)

 

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16 Responses to Poorganics, Produce, and Pesticides

  1. Laura November 21, 2011 at 9:23 am #

    Hooray for fearless eating of cheap produce!!

  2. Linnea November 21, 2011 at 10:17 am #

    I’m so glad to hear this! And by the way, I recently started shopping at Trader Joe’s for produce, because it is MUCH cheaper than my other alternative here in Chicago, which is Jewel. Trader Joe’s charges by bag or by item, not by pound. Banana’s are 19 cents each, a lime or lemon 29 cents, a pear 69 cents, (those are the items I remember off-hand) etc. I don’t know how that compares with Aldi–I’m too far away from one to know!

    Also, could you share your method of washing your produce?

    Thanks so much, I really appreciate and enjoy your blog!.It’s taught me a lot!

    • katrina November 21, 2011 at 10:41 am #

      Great tips Linnea! I have picked up produce at Trader Joes when I’m there, but ALDI is closer for me. I think either place is probably a better option than the supermarket–unless you can find sale or clearance produce. :) One other tip that I should have shared is to try to favor USA grown produce, except when that might mean a GMO product. Here’s the link to my washing method for the most part. Truthfully, lots of time I use a squirt of dishsoap and a good rinse.

  3. anita November 21, 2011 at 11:20 am #

    well, reason #3 makes me not want to participate in making other people sick…

    • katrina November 21, 2011 at 11:37 am #

      That’s a good point, Anita. I will say that a lot of those seemed to have to do with mishandled applications (spills, failure to wear proper masks, etc). But I definitely see your point. I don’t want to contribute to people becoming sick without a knowledge of the risk they are undertaking. I guess, as someone who had her own yard sprayed all summer for mosquitoes, I see there being reasonable risk. The sprayer guys were supposed to wear these hasmat looking suits and we were supposed to stay inside for a half hour after the application, but a few times, I saw the guys not wearing the masks. Does that make me less likely to hire this company to keep off my mosquitoes next summer? Um, not really . . . Sorry. But for kids who are drinking polluted water due to pesticide run-off, well, that is a problem that I don’t want to encourage. I’m not saying it isn’t a complicated issue . . .

  4. Rachel M. November 21, 2011 at 2:40 pm #

    Well this is a relief. I’ve tried to buy the dirty dozen organically recently and it’s not exactly a money issue that’s deterring me, it’s time to visit a 3rd store in one day with a 3 year old who’s become a home body and is more difficult with each store we visit.

    My tricks for cutting food budget in produce are shopping at a local grocery store that puts all dented/aging produce on discount. 6 apples for $1.00. I have to use them the same day but that way I can make an apple pie for $1.00 + the flour/shortening I already have at home to make pie crust.

    So I have to ask the question – what does Poorganics mean now?

    • katrina November 21, 2011 at 3:14 pm #

      Well, poorganics have always been more “real” food focused than label driven. More often than not, the word “organic” isn’t my main concern as much as the ingredients themselves. Maybe a post comparing poorganic to organic will be coming up soon . . :)

  5. Sandy November 22, 2011 at 7:56 am #

    Hoorah! I totally agree! Ask God to bless it and EAT!!! He has not given us a spirit of FEAR!!!
    There are too many worthy things for us to be concerned about – people LITERALLY starving to death and without CLEAN water to drink. GIVE all the $$$ you save to ministries who will help those who are truly without the basic necessities of life!!!

    • katrina November 22, 2011 at 8:30 am #

      Yes! I agree. I think produce is one of the easy things to make an easy poorganic decision about. Plus, most of the year we can shop our gardens or the Farmer’s Market anyway! :)

  6. Anita November 22, 2011 at 8:44 am #

    i’d also like to see a study though that proves that they AREN’T harmful, not just ones that ‘can’t prove they are’…
    this was an interesting article…
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/1458660.stm

    • katrina November 22, 2011 at 10:29 am #

      I’d also be curious to see a study or info comparing usage of pesticides/ hazards on large scale GMO crops (corn, sugar beets, and soy) vs. produce consumed in unprocessed form. I am still definitely avoiding GMO and from what I can tell, a lot of the dangerous crop dusting is on crops that become processed into ingredients rather than produce. In fact, some sweet corn and a bit of pineapple from Hawaii are the only two produce items that are currently GMO (and still pretty rare to find in stores), so most produce is still a “safe” bet from that standpoint.

      But I wonder how much of the environmental pesticide “threat” is actually connected to PRODUCE specifically.

    • Laura November 22, 2011 at 2:16 pm #

      All that money wasted on a vasectomy… all we needed was some airborne pesticides.

  7. Rebecca November 27, 2011 at 5:16 am #

    Thank you for sharing your “research”

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