Last month, the President’s Cancer Panel released a troubling report: many widely used synthetic chemicals, including some of the most common pesticides used on food crops, have never been properly tested for safety, and may well cause cancer in people exposed to them. The panel urged Americans to eat more fruits and vegetables grown without the use of synthetic pesticides to prevent cancer.
Just days later, a study published by researchers at Harvard and the University of Montreal revealed that children exposed to higher levels of organophosphate pesticides appear more likely to develop ADHD.
And this month, a group of French scientists released a study linking organochlorine pesticide exposure to Parkinson’s disease.
If all this bad news about the potential health problems associated with exposure to pesticides has you itching to switch to an all-organic diet, you’re not alone. But in many stores, organic fruits and vegetables are still significantly more expensive than conventional produce, and especially in the midst of a recession, not everyone has a grocery budget that can accommodate all-organic food shopping, all the time.
Health conscious consumers on a budget just got a lucky break: The Environmental Working Group has released a helpful Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides. EWG’s science-based report lists the fruits and vegetables that are most important to buy organic. It also points out the produce that picks up the lowest pesticide loads when grown conventionally. This way shoppers with limited funds to spend on organic foods — and who still want to limit their pesticide exposure — can choose their fruit and vegetable purchases wisely.
Conventionally grown celery, peaches and strawberries make the list of most toxic offenders -– EWG recommends shoppers always buy organic versions of those foods. But conventionally grown onions, avocado, sweet corn and pineapple all tested with very low levels of pesticide residue, so EWG deems those foods among the safest to buy without an organic label.
The Environmental Working Group website offers a free printable wallet-sized reference card with their best and worst food lists, so you can take it with you the next time you go grocery shopping. And then you’ll have a quick answer handy when you’re wondering whether you should spring for the organic kiwi fruit, or pay a little extra for organic potatoes instead.
Photo: One Day's Harvest, copyright 2009 Jaelithe Judy. Used with permission.