Pesticides Contaminate Nearly Half of Organic Produce

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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Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Mac C.
mac C3 years ago

This is disheartening. Thanks for the information.

Klaus Peters
Klaus Peters3 years ago

"Organic food " is a lie and just a money spinner. The only organic produce that I can rely on comes out of my garden. Sure I have grubs in my apples, my greens have holes in their leaves, but I also have lady birds who eat the aphids. I save a lot of money not using chemicals and I feel safer for it.

Heidi Aubrey
Heidi Aubrey3 years ago

I have read this article and the rebuttal to this. Unless you live in Canada, this is meaningless.

The USDA has very different and far more stringent restrictions on what kind, if any, pesticide is allowed.

There are a couple of natural pesticides that are allowed in miniscule amounts. These are organic chemicals, meaning they occur naturally in nature. For example, when an onion goes bad, have you noticed the black, water insoluble, residue that is on them? Believe it or not, this is straight up Sulfur. Sulfur as you may or may not remember was used in WW1 as an antibacterial agent to treat wounds.

I buy organic for all the important items: berries, leafy greens and apples and other fruits without a rind to peel. I buy standard bananas, oranges, mangoes, watermelon, tangerines, butternut squash, etc. If it is something I have to peel to eat, it is ok to buy the more affordable standardly grown produce.

Beba H.
beba h3 years ago


Michael J Byrne
Michael J Byrne4 years ago

I have worked in the retail food industry for decades and I find the whole industry at a crossroads or perhaps a dead end with regard to food contamination, also now the many forms of super bugs being generated through antibiotics given mostly for a shorter growth period for poultry etc. Regards M J Byrne

A F.
Athena F4 years ago

thank you

A F.
Athena F4 years ago


Ken O.
Ken O4 years ago

I received this today from Muir Glen in response to my inquiry about BPA in their Canned Tomatos:

Hi Ken,

All Muir Glen canned tomato products are packaged using a canned lining that is not made with BPA. Thanks for reaching out!

-Elle and the Muir Glen Team

NIce response, and fairly quick, my thanks to Muir Glen.

Genevieve L.
Genevieve L4 years ago

*UPDATE*: I consulted the CBC link and fount this:
"Analysis of the fungicide thiabendazole in the CFIA’s latest data suggests the amount of pesticide present in the organic produce is lower than on regular produce.

The average quantity of thiabendazole measured on organic apples was 0.02 ppm whereas the average amount measured on non-organic was 0.3 ppm — about 15 times higher."

It's the only number I could find regarding the exact amount of pesticides on both types of items, but it's enough to convince me to still buy organic. Unfortunately, it also shows that we've now contaminated out environment to the point that it's probably impossible to grow produce in a soil completely devoid of pesticides. *Sigh*.