Caught Red-Handed: Pesticides in Organic Strawberry Plants

Thought those organic strawberries you picked up at the market are pesticide-free? You should think again, according to the Pesticide Action Network and several organic farmers in California. In a letter written to the USDA, they point out that most organic strawberry plants grown in the state are actually fumigated with millions of pounds of pesticides every year.

This problem stems from a loophole in the definition of organic produce: in order for something to be labeled as organic, only the produce itself needs to be pesticide-free. This means that before the plant bears fruit, it can be fumigated and treated with all kinds of dangerous chemicals. Because of this loophole, even consumers who are diligent in avoiding non-organic produce are probably inadvertently consuming produce from plants that have been treated with pesticides.

Though organic plants still have less exposure to chemicals than non-organic ones, this incident is shedding light into the hypocrisy of big-business organic agriculture. James Rickert, a disillusioned former farmer, explains it to the New York Times: “The reality is that a lot of the organic growers want nothing to do with organic plants” because it’s a financial risk. If the organic plants carry disease, then it could wipe out a crop. And since the producers can label it as organic anyway, why shell out the extra cash?

Thankfully, because of the efforts of PAN and its allies, this important issue is starting to gather steam. Hopefully, with just a little more pressure, policy-makers and pen-pushers at the USDA will realize that “organic” really should mean organic and actually keep pesticides out of our food.

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Photo credit: gongar's Flickr stream.

113 comments

Ruth R.
Ruth R.3 years ago

The computer or something went unusual -- so the comment got printed 3 times.

Ruth R.
Ruth R.3 years ago

Grow organic stawberries in your window box, plant container, and/or garden, so you will know that they are organic. There are resources that need to be gathered -- organic gardening books, organic gardening magazines, and the organic gardening people -- who have the info from experience.

Ruth R.
Ruth R.3 years ago

Grow organic stawberries in your window box, plant container, and/or garden, so you will know that they are organic. There are resources that need to be gathered -- organic gardening books, organic gardening magazines, and the organic gardening people -- who have the info from experience.

Ruth R.
Ruth R.3 years ago

Grow organic stawberries in your window box, plant container, and/or garden, so you will know that they are organic. There are resources that need to be gathered -- organic gardening books, organic gardening magazines, and the organic gardening people -- who have the info from experience.

jane r.
jane ryan4 years ago

let's not jump to conclusions...find out what the regulations say in your own state, and then BUY LOCAL and seasonally! organic IS still better 99% of the time...and yes, strawberries are surprisingly easy to grow yourself if you have enough hours of sun and a well-drained soil.

Linda Jarsky
Linda Jarsky4 years ago

"The earth, like the sun, like the air, belongs to everyone -- and to no one. "

–Edward Abbey

Genevieve L.
Genevieve L.4 years ago

A word of caution about this story: the laws regarding organic certification vary widely from one country, or possibly one state from the next. On the USDA's website, it says clearly that synthetic pesticides and fertilizers may not be used on organic produce. I don't know what the law in California says, but I would guess it's not the same everywhere. Here in Canada the law mentions pretty clearly that synthetic pesticides and fertilizers are not allowed, period. At any stage of the plant's growth. My word of caution is this: be careful not to suggest that all organic food is doused with pesticides, as it is just not true. There may be those who abuse the system and take advantage of legal loopholes, but that is not the rule. It's hard enough to convince people that buying organic is worth the price differential without having Care2 contributing to the problem. Of course, loopholes should be pointed out and corrected, but one must be extremely careful in doing so, to avoid undermining the credibility of the very thing you're fighting for.

Sarah Metcalf
Sarah M.4 years ago

We definitely need stricter policies.

Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin4 years ago

Only one solution: Grow your own!

Jessica Laid
Jessica Laid4 years ago

Plant your own. I have also planted rasberries,blueberries,an apple tree, many vegetables and soon grapes!