Last week EWG came out with their annual “dirty dozen” (and here’s a CBS segment on the subject I was interviewed for). The dirty dozen summarizes the most highly contaminated produce and there’s also a “clean” list. Jenn, of Peas and Crayons wrote a terrific post on the subject. I’m always curious if consumers really take action based on the results. Sometimes it seems as though there’s the “already organic” camp who go organic to whatever extent they can afford. Then there’s the “organic schmorganic” camp (my mother is a member of) who dismiss the notion of organic is optimal. In the Venn diagram of produce purchasing the “Schmorganics” have substantial overlap with “organic = exorbitant”. Perhaps, if we stop and think what pesticides have the potential to do to us, people would be swayed. So, just how bad are pesticides?
“Cide” means to kill. When we, or our family members, ingest pesticides we are in ingesting something designed to kill. Sure, they are designed to kill pests but you would you take a hit from an exterminator’s can? As I said to CBS, every bodily system is affected by pesticides. From cancer to Parkinson’s the research is grim. A few examples:
Pesticides may harm your children, even if they’re not born yet
Pesticides kill insects by attacking their brains and nervous systems, it’s not surprising they affect the development of children’s brains. One study showed ADHD may be cause by damage to neurotransmitters that are affected by pesticides.
A study in the Journal Environmental Health Perspectives also suggests pesticides may be associated with the health and development of children. “Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley’s School of Public Health have found that prenatal exposure to organophosphate pesticides — widely used on food crops — is related to lower intelligence scores at age 7.”
What made this especially concerning was that the results were similar for the NYC children studied at Mt Sinai Medical Center as they were for the children in California living in an agricultural center in Monterey.
Pesticides can make you depressed and less fertile
Pesticides can affect your mood with studies showing depression associated with chronic pesticide exposure. Pesticides can affect those spermies and fertility. I always talk about pesticide exposure when I see clients who are TTC.
Pesticides can make you gain weight
We think about how certain medications make us gain weight, ever think about how each of the chemicals on your produce affect you? There’s an herbicide called atrazine that causes weight gain in rodents. The mice gained weight and in particular gained visceral fat that increases risk of heart disease. Atrazine is on of the most common pesticides used on crops, particularly on sweet corn.
Purchasing certified organic ensures that no pesticides are used. You want to eat your fruits and vegetables without a bad taste in your mouth…and those pesticides? They taste like crap too.
Are you “already organic”, “organic schmorganic or organic = exorbitant? Do you use the dirty/clean dozen to guide your decisions?
I feel like I am a work in progress. Choosing organic more often, but some times price has an impact. After this post, I believe I will put less weight on the price factor and more on the long term health. Just have to figure out how to remember the dirty dozen list.
But as a NYer, that eats out, how do we get more restaurants to offer organic choices?
Thanks for commenting Randy. EWG has a printable wallet card and an iphone app great for remembering the list. If you scan the list you an see the items you purchase a lot and go organic for those. As far as restaurants the key is to ask and ask again. Demand creates its own supply.
I'd say I buy 75% organic. The other 25% I wash really well and hope! But thinking of the definition of "cide" has me wondering if it's not organic maybe I should do without. (shudder)
heather, one of the scary things about the dirty dozen is that pesticide analysis is done on the way we eat fruit (peeled/washed etc). So washing isn't always enough, those "cides" penetrate. Look at the clean list- those are safer places to cling to conventional if needed.
I will be sharing this with MANY people today!
Wow. . . convinced! I've been hit or miss on buying organic. Sadly, based on convenience. Seeing it in black and white like this is motivational.
(btw, I hope it's okay I quoted you in a brief post on Ingredient mag. on my blog today.)
Amy, I'm grateful for your comments because that's what I was hoping. If it's vague we can shop based on convenience or price. If it's lowering our kids IQ's or making us fat and depressed and possibly sickly it's different. Ingredient Mag is fantastic I hope everyone reading here reads your post about it.
I buy what I can afford organic. My CSA share is organic, and I pay attention to make sure I buy the dirty dozen organically. Another strange thing is that the food seems to taste better when it's organic — especially fruit.
A. Nice segment! They didn't let you talk enough, though 🙂 B. Love any reference to a Venn diagram. C. I am so appalled at how long I went without knowing just how bad all my fruits and veggies were contaminated. I only recently started being more choosy and pressuring my BF to buy organic even when I am not there. I just made him watch the CBS segment.
Great post on pesticides! I agree that they can do all of these awful things and more =( Which isnt a 100% its gonna happen sort of thing but man is it enough to make me a very cautious shopper with an overabundant home garden! eep! Thanks for the shoutout lovely! <3 update your side bar! 😉
Agreed Jen, pesticides aren't guaranteed to kill you nor is organic produce guaranteed to keep you healthy. However, the correlation or even association between pesticides and all of these different diseases makes me purchase differently. Sidebar couldn't be updated b/c I am inept and my nutrition nerd Lisa was in Italy until yesterdayl Welcome home Lisa.
I am definitely in the organic camp but I have many family members still in the “organic schmorganic” and the "GMO Schmo" camp. They think I am over the top with worrying about pesticides. I just say ya'll can eat chemicals that cause cancer (btw there is alot of cancer that runs in my family…hello) but I choose to eat and feed my kids organic as much as I can. Great post!
You bring up a really important point, Lauren. I started solid foods with my baby a few weeks ago and I am being more particular with ensuring the food is organic for all the reasons you listed above.
But the bottom line is, organic is expensive and while you and I will strive to make sure we purchase organic, on a larger scale people will go for what is cheaper. That is the way it works unfortunately. You are doing your part by educating people so that at least it will cross their minds when they are buying groceries.
I don't know what the best approach is but I think at a national level something should be done with regards to food policy and trying to make it available for everyone, rich or poor.
Sam, I agree. On a larger level we all need to ask questions and ask for organic. If we all asked our pizza places to use organic wheat or tomatoes, the prices of these items would change. Additionally, where organic is too expensive people can try to eat more from the "clean dozen" to minimize pesticide exposure. Solid foods- how fun.
WOW never made the connection between pesticide, suicide, and homicide until reading "cide" means to kill. Gross. It just always blows my mind that the govt acknowledges that large doses of certain chemicals are lethal, while small doses are considered safe. What about the people that are ingesting these chemicals throughout the day, everyday, for their entire lives? I choose organic to steer clear at all costs
We belong to an organic CSA, and most of the other produce we buy is organic. We also grow a few veggies in our small patio. I definitely make sure to buy organic for the "dirty" veggies.
i try to get organic mostly for these reasons and I like the traditional old school way of farming and taste
My mom goes belongs in the organic schmorganic group.
I'd like to say that I buy more than half my produce. I always try and buy organic off the dirty dozen list.
Occasionally, my mom and I will split our local co-op which offers organic.
What a great post-thank you. I will try to buy more organic from now on 🙂
wow! how scary! gain weight too….that makes sense!
The reason I included weight gain was that for some people cancer or parkinson's seems far away but mood and weight are more immediate.
Nice post, and I like your response right about. If you tell someone, "it may cause Parkinsons" it may not scare them as much as the vain; you may gain weight!". I am not too careful about buying all organic, but I DO buy organic foods on the dirty list, especially apples. And when I'm pregnant and have kids under age 6, I will surely buy all organic, even if it means no vacation for a couple years 🙂
Organic for dirty dozen is great Gina. Curious what your supermarket does with organics/education. I'm thinking conventional apple producers etc are going to have backlash against lists. This 2011 list was delayed due to growers/issues.
your post inspired me to write about this pesticide issue… just like the artificial food dye post you did… i guess you just inspire me 🙂
Lisa, make sure to come back and give us the link to your post, you inspire me too!
I definitely use the dirty/clean lists to help me shop. I can't afford to eat all organic, but I insist on organic greens, berries and apples. If I don't buy those organic, I just can't get past the thoughts of pesticides and enjoy eating them.
THANKS SO MUCH for this post. I have been searching high and low for an article with evidence that pesticides are actually bad when ingested. So many of the articles assume that everyone is in agreement that they are. I am currently writing a series on my blog called "Eating Poorganically" which talks about affordable ways to make organic or "nearly" organic choices. One topic we've debated was whether or not to wash produce and/or buy organic. I'm posting your article on Facebook, so everyone can see that I've finally found some proof. THANK YOU!