A new study released by CBC News found that almost half of organic fruits and vegetables tested in locations across Canada over the last two years are contaminated with pesticides. And almost 2 percent of the samples tested actually violated the maximum allowable limits for the presence of pesticides, according to data provided by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). This upper limit is the amount set for any type of produce, not just organic.
While 45.8 percent of the samples showed trace amounts of pesticides, consumers are purchasing organic food in an effort to avoid pesticide consumption.
While the amount of organic produce contaminated by pesticides is unacceptable, the non-organic situation is even worse. The CFIA found that 78.4 percent of non-organic food samples contained pesticides. In the non-organic samples tested, 4.7 percent of the produce violated the Canadian government’s allowable limits, exposing consumers to excessively high amounts of pesticides.
Only about 20% of the produce tested was grown in Canada, with around 80% being imported from other countries. Of the Canadian-grown produce approximately 43 percent tested positive for pesticides, just slightly lower than the imported produce. Because so much of the produce in the study was imported it suggests that the ramifications go well beyond the Canadian borders. The study has implications for consumers in other countries as well.
I’m concerned that so much organic produce is contaminated. Consumers of organic produce trust the producers to provide a pesticide-free alternative to the conventionally-grown produce lining most grocery store shelves. And this trust is being violated, intentionally or as a result of the rampant contamination of our soil and water. Pesticide manufacturers and users need to be held accountable for the widespread health and environmental implications of their products.
Many people mistakenly believe that trace amounts of pesticides are harmless, but increasing volumes of research are disproving the “dose makes the poison” belief. In other words, minute amounts of some chemicals can have extremely dangerous effects, particularly if the chemicals are known hormone disruptors. Many pesticides fit that description.
A study conducted by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) a year ago identified more than 55 pesticides that can leave cancer-causing residues in food. According to the US Natural Resource Defense Council, the use of pesticides has risen more than tenfold since the 1940s. Currently, over 1.2 billion pounds of pesticides are used in agriculture every year in the United States alone.
In another study conducted by the United States Drug Administration, researchers found residue of many different neurotoxins (chemicals proven to harm the brain and/or nervous system in humans) in conventionally-produced apples. Some of the pesticide residues include: azinophos, methyl chloripyrofos, diazinon, dimethoate, ethion, omethioate, parathion, parathion methyl, phosalone, and phosmet.
It’s also a serious concern that nearly 2% of organic produce and almost 5% of conventionally-grown produce tested in the Canadian study violated the maximum allowable limits for pesticide use.
The results also varied between types of produce. As an example, researchers tested an organic tomato of Mexican origin for four pesticides. The tomato contained residue of two of the four pesticides tested; however they were in amounts that exceeded the maximum allowable amounts. An organic pepper of Mexican origin was also tested for 13 different pesticides and contained 10 pesticides, none of which violated the maximum amounts.
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