For the fifth year in a row, Environmental Working Group has ranked apples at the top of their Dirty Dozen list. The list ranks non-organic fruits and vegetables with high levels of pesticide residue.
Other fruits and vegetables to make the Dirty Dozen list include celery, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, nectarines, peaches, potatoes, snap peas, spinach, strawberries, sweet bell peppers, hot peppers, kale, and collards. On the other end of the spectrum, the Clean Fifteen—a list of non-organic fruits and vegetables with the least pesticide residue—includes asparagus, avocados, cabbage, cantaloupe, cauliflower, eggplant, grapefruit, kiwi, mangoes, onions, papayas, pineapples, sweet corn, sweet peas, and sweet potato.
“The bottom line is people do not want to eat pesticides with their fruits and vegetables,” said Ken Cook, EWG's president and cofounder. “That’s why we will continue telling shoppers about agricultural chemicals that turn up on their produce, and we hope we will inform, and ultimately, empower them to eat cleaner.”
This comes just as GMO apples were recently approved by the USDA. The Arctic apples, as they’re called, are part of a growing list of GMO fresh produce to be approved (the list also includes papaya and sweet corn). A gene within the apple is altered so it resists browning and bruising. It’s a feature the developer, Okanagan Specialty Fruits, thinks will be pleasing to consumers while reducing the number of bruised apples that are discarded. But according to a recent Ecologist article, “farmers may have to increase their pesticide use on these new GMO apples.”
“We are saying, eat your fruits and vegetables,” said Sonya Lunder, EWG’s senior analyst. “But know which ones have the highest amounts of pesticides so you can opt for the organic versions, if available and affordable, or grab a snack off the Clean Fifteen.”
According to Environmental Working Group, the best way to avoid pesticides is to buy certified organic produce to ensure crops weren't sprayed with synthetic chemicals. The Dirty Dozen list is meant to help shoppers who can't afford to buy completely organic, so they can choose their produce accordingly.
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Image of baby eating apple from Shuttershock.