Is it Worth Choosing Organic Veggies?

By Emma Cockrell

With my ongoing emphasis on including more vegetables in the diet – whether a Nutritionhelp anti-candida diet or general healthy diet – it serves us well to consider the question of whether we should be buying organic. We are aware that produce may be carrying a residue of pesticides and fungicides, but does this really matter? You can access the government reports on pesticide residue on a number of foods here. This seems to be a fair and transparent documentation, with the main summary being “…we do not expect these residues to have an effect on health.”

However, since pesticides are designed to be toxic – to kill insects, plants and fungi – it is not surprising to know that they can have an impact on health. The problem is that the impact isn’t seen immediately or obviously. Samantha Jakuboski at Green Science writes,

After countless studies, pesticides have been linked to cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease, ADHD, and even birth defects. Pesticides also have the potential to harm the nervous system, the reproductive system, and the endocrine system. Pesticides can even be very harmful to foetuses because the chemicals can pass from the mother during pregnancy or if a woman nurses her child. Although one piece of fruit with pesticides won’t kill you, if they build up in your body, they can be potentially detrimental to your health and should be avoided as much as possible.

Children, in particular, take in more pesticides relative to body weight than adults and have developing organ systems that are more vulnerable and less able to detoxify toxic chemicals.

veg

In contrast, consider the results of research at Newcastle University on the nutrient benefits of organic produce. The study concluded that there are “statistically significant, meaningful” differences, with a range of antioxidants being “substantially higher” – between 19% and 69% – in organic food. It is the first study to demonstrate clear and wide-ranging differences between organic and conventional fruits, vegetables and cereals.

So while in theory we would prefer organic produce, it is not always available or affordable. This is where the following chart, taken from Pesticide Action Network UK, can be useful. It helps us to understand which vegetables are most contaminated (follow link for information on fruits) and therefore which ones to opt for organic when possible.

The worst produce are generally those that require a shiny exterior to promote sales. These often have petroleum-based wax coatings which also encourages contamination from pesticides to ‘stick’. With non-organic produce therefore it is well worth peeling, to reduce the toxic load. In contrast, organic produce should be eaten unpeeled (but well-washed) to obtain maximum nutrients.tomatoes

A natural bristle brush is helpful for scrubbing produce thoroughly, removing as much pesticide residue as possible.

Best & Worst Food for Pesticide Residues E-mail
% of Samples That
Contain Residues
% of Residues that Exceed MRLs
 % of Samples that contain Multiple Residues
 

Best Vegetables


Corn (cob)
alt
0 0 0
Leeks
alt
8 1.4 4.2
Aubergines
alt 20 5.7 5.7
Onions
alt
29 0 2
Ginger
alt 33 0 0
Chilli
alt
9 6.5 22
Potatoes
alt
44 1 8.3
Peppers
alt 45 0 34
Celery alt 46 0 12.5
Spinach alt 47 2.5 22


Worst Vegetables


Tomatoes
alt
81 2.1 52
Parsnips
alt
77 0 67
Cucumber
alt
64 1 36
Carrots
alt
63 0 32
Lettuce
alt
59 0 27
Beans in a pod
alt
58 14 39
Peas in a pod
alt
57 4.1 37
Sweet Potatoes
alt
57 0 6.4
Courgettes and Marrows  alt  48 0 13
Yams  alt  48 22 28

The following chart, also by Pesticide Action Network UK gives a window into the endeavours of UK supermarkets into addressing pesticides on their produce. There is quite a contrast  between the attitudes of the companies compared! However, most of the companies listed below are working to increase their organic range of produce.

What are UK supermarkets doing about pesticide problems?

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PAN UK’s summary comparison on whether supermarkets are addressing the following issues;
Pesticide policy criterion
Aldi
ADSA co-op lidl m&s morrisons sainsbury's somerfield tesco Waitrose
Publish its residue testing results?
There is no policy commitment or no information provided for consumers.
There is no policy commitment or no information provided for consumers.
A company mentions the issue but gives no detail on how this is implemented, or lacks targets or reporting on progress.
There is no policy commitment or no information provided for consumers.
A company is taking concrete actions for a specific criterion and describes in some detail the aims and methods.
There is no policy commitment or no information provided for consumers.
A company mentions the issue but gives no detail on how this is implemented, or lacks targets or reporting on progress.
There is no policy commitment or no information provided for consumers.
There is no policy commitment or no information provided for consumers.
There is no policy commitment or no information provided for consumers.
Action plans to tackle residue problems beyond legal compliance?
There is no policy commitment or no information provided for consumers.
There is no policy commitment or no information provided for consumers.
There is no policy commitment or no information provided for consumers.
There is no policy commitment or no information provided for consumers.
A company is taking concrete actions for a specific criterion and describes in some detail the aims and methods.
There is no policy commitment or no information provided for consumers.
A company is taking concrete actions for a specific criterion and describes in some detail the aims and methods.
There is no policy commitment or no information provided for consumers.
There is no policy commitment or no information provided for consumers.
There is no policy commitment or no information provided for consumers.
Commit to phase out specific hazardous pesticides?
There is no policy commitment or no information provided for consumers.
There is no policy commitment or no information provided for consumers.
A company is taking concrete actions for a specific criterion and describes in some detail the aims and methods.
There is no policy commitment or no information provided for consumers.
A company is taking concrete actions for a specific criterion and describes in some detail the aims and methods.
There is no policy commitment or no information provided for consumers.
A company mentions the issue but gives no detail on how this is implemented, or lacks targets or reporting on progress.
There is no policy commitment or no information provided for consumers.
There is no policy commitment or no information provided for consumers.
There is no policy commitment or no information provided for consumers.
Stated aim and actions to reduce use of pesticides?
There is no policy commitment or no information provided for consumers.
A company mentions the issue but gives no detail on how this is implemented, or lacks targets or reporting on progress.
A company is taking concrete actions for a specific criterion and describes in some detail the aims and methods.
There is no policy commitment or no information provided for consumers.
A company is taking concrete actions for a specific criterion and describes in some detail the aims and methods.
There is no policy commitment or no information provided for consumers.
A company is taking concrete actions for a specific criterion and describes in some detail the aims and methods.
A company mentions the issue but gives no detail on how this is implemented, or lacks targets or reporting on progress.
A company mentions the issue but gives no detail on how this is implemented, or lacks targets or reporting on progress.
A company mentions the issue but gives no detail on how this is implemented, or lacks targets or reporting on progress.
Pest management strategy promotes alternatives to pesticides?
A company may be addressing the issue, but does not provide any information on it, or the information is too vague to judge whether it is making a genuine effort
A company mentions the issue but gives no detail on how this is implemented, or lacks targets or reporting on progress.
A company is taking concrete actions for a specific criterion and describes in some detail the aims and methods.
A company may be addressing the issue, but does not provide any information on it, or the information is too vague to judge whether it is making a genuine effort
A company is taking concrete actions for a specific criterion and describes in some detail the aims and methods.
A company may be addressing the issue, but does not provide any information on it, or the information is too vague to judge whether it is making a genuine effort
A company is taking concrete actions for a specific criterion and describes in some detail the aims and methods.
A company is taking concrete actions for a specific criterion and describes in some detail the aims and methods.
A company mentions the issue but gives no detail on how this is implemented, or lacks targets or reporting on progress.
A company is taking concrete actions for a specific criterion and describes in some detail the aims and methods.
Technical support for growers to reduce reliance on pesticides?
A company may be addressing the issue, but does not provide any information on it, or the information is too vague to judge whether it is making a genuine effort
A company mentions the issue but gives no detail on how this is implemented, or lacks targets or reporting on progress.
A company is taking concrete actions for a specific criterion and describes in some detail the aims and methods.
A company may be addressing the issue, but does not provide any information on it, or the information is too vague to judge whether it is making a genuine effort
A company is taking concrete actions for a specific criterion and describes in some detail the aims and methods.
A company may be addressing the issue, but does not provide any information on it, or the information is too vague to judge whether it is making a genuine effort
A company is taking concrete actions for a specific criterion and describes in some detail the aims and methods.
A company may be addressing the issue, but does not provide any information on it, or the information is too vague to judge whether it is making a genuine effort
A company mentions the issue but gives no detail on how this is implemented, or lacks targets or reporting on progress.
A company is taking concrete actions for a specific criterion and describes in some detail the aims and methods.
Information for consumers on pesticide use issues?
There is no policy commitment or no information provided for consumers.
There is no policy commitment or no information provided for consumers.
A company is taking concrete actions for a specific criterion and describes in some detail the aims and methods.
There is no policy commitment or no information provided for consumers.
A company mentions the issue but gives no detail on how this is implemented, or lacks targets or reporting on progress.
There is no policy commitment or no information provided for consumers.
A company mentions the issue but gives no detail on how this is implemented, or lacks targets or reporting on progress.
There is no policy commitment or no information provided for consumers.
There is no policy commitment or no information provided for consumers.
There is no policy commitment or no information provided for consumers.
Engage with consumers on unnecessary use of pesticides for cosmetic appearance of fruit & vegetables?
There is no policy commitment or no information provided for consumers.
There is no policy commitment or no information provided for consumers.
There is no policy commitment or no information provided for consumers.
There is no policy commitment or no information provided for consumers.
There is no policy commitment or no information provided for consumers.
There is no policy commitment or no information provided for consumers.
There is no policy commitment or no information provided for consumers.
There is no policy commitment or no information provided for consumers.
There is no policy commitment or no information provided for consumers.
There is no policy commitment or no information provided for consumers.

Key

green A company is taking concrete actions for a specific criterion and describes in some detail the aims and methods.
yellow A company mentions the issue but gives no detail on how this is implemented, or lacks targets or reporting on progress.
blue A company may be addressing the issue, but does not provide any information on it, or the information is too vague to judge whether it is making a genuine effort.
red There is no policy commitment or no information provided for consumers.
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