Organic produce are fruits and vegetables that are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. In the United States, the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) issues a USDA Organic seal, which assures consumers of the quality and integrity of organic products.
There are lots of reasons to buy organic produce:
- It's better for the environment. A lack of pesticides means healthier soil, water, and wildlife.
- Buying organic supports small farmers. Organic farmers can earn a fairer price for organic produce compared to factory farming.
- Organic farming is good for biodiversity. Organic farmers are growing a wide variety of non-genetically modified (non-GMO) fruits and vegetables. Where factory farming has shrunk our choices in the supermarket to one or two types of any produce variety, organic farmers are resurrecting many heirloom varieties.
- Organic foods are healthier for you. The research on whether consuming organic food is healthier for people remains inconclusive, but the USDA's own tests show that most non-organic produce contains residual pesticides even after washing. The long-term effects of consuming these pesticides have not been sufficiently studied, but they can't be good for you.
In a perfect world, we would buy all of our groceries organic. Unfortunately, organic food is still more expensive (although the price is continually dropping) or even unavailable.
Produce With Highest Level of Pesticide Contamination
The following list is based on information and studies by the USDA, Consumer Reports, and the Environmental Working Group. Because of these high levels, it's recommended to buy organic for these fruits and vegetables:
- Nectarines – 97.3% of nectarines sampled were found to contain pesticides.
- Celery – 94.5% of celery sampled were found to contain pesticides.
- Pears – 94.4% of pears sampled were found to contain pesticides.
- Peaches – 93.7% of peaches sampled were found to contain pesticides.
- Apples – 91% of apples sampled were found to contain pesticides.
- Cherries – 91% of cherries sampled were found to contain pesticides.
- Strawberries – 90% of strawberries sampled were found to contain pesticides.
- Imported Grapes – 86% of imported grapes (i.e., Chile) sampled were found to contain pesticides.
- Spinach – 83.4% of spinach sampled were found to contain pesticides.
- Potatoes – 79.3% of potatoes sampled were found to contain pesticides.
- Bell Peppers – 68% of bell peppers sampled were found to contain pesticides.
- Red Raspberries – 59% of red raspberries sampled were found to contain pesticides.
Produce With Lowest Level of Pesticide Contamination
This list of fruits and vegetables is found to contain the least amount of pesticides. Notice that many of these have thick, inedible skins that protect the fruit.
- Corn (Note, almost all corn is genetically modified)
- Sweet Peas
Now that you are educated, make wise choices at the grocery store or farmer's market.