organic carrots

As consumers got their first taste of the Environmental Working Group’s 2011 list of the most/least heavily sprayed fruits and vegetables, the Organic Trade Association has issued an advisory urging Americans to choose organic if they wish to avoid pesticide residues.

The USDA’s recently released annual Pesticide Data Program (PDP) summary reveals significant differences in pesticide residue levels measured on organic fruits and vegetables compared with their chemically-grown conventional counterparts—with organic offerings showing considerably less pesticide contamination risks.

Christine Bushway, OTA’s Executive Director and CEO, said in a statement that, “Organic production is the only system that uses third-party inspection and certification to verify that no toxic and persistent pesticides or synthetic fertilizers have been used.” And even though organic offerings are rapidly expanding (more than 8 percent annual growth rate), the organic category only represents 12 percent of all fruits and vegetables sold in the U.S.

Recent data collected by the USDA’s Economic Research Service shows that organic cropland and pasture—which accounted for only about 0.6 percent of U.S. total farmland in 2008—was far surpassed by organic carrots, representing 13 percent of U.S. carrot acreage, and organic apples, representing 5 percent of U.S. apple acreage. This info is especially timely as the EWG’s “Dirty Dozen” most heavily sprayed crop list was topped for the first time by apples, with more than 98 percent of samples showing positive for residual pesticides.

And in the wake of food poisoning incidents like the recent tragic case in Germany from sprouts, a backlash against organic foods is often felt. But according to the OTA, “In addition to not allowing the use of toxic and persistent pesticides when growing organic fruits and vegetables, organic producers also must comply with U.S. food safety and other food regulations as well as the exacting standards of USDA’s National Organic Program. As recently as last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) acknowledged that organic food is no more susceptible to food-borne pathogens than conventional produce.”

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Photo: deb roby