Why the ‘Clean 15’ list falls short – More reason to buy everything organic.

 I’m going to make a few assumptions here. First, I’m assuming you buy organic food, or at least consider buying organic whenever possible. Second, I’m assuming you are concerned about the long term effects of pesticides on your health. Third, I’m assuming you’ve probably heard of the “Clean 15” and “Dirty dozen” list by the Environmental Working Group. Finally, I’m also assuming maybe you’ve decided – based on the list- what produce you don’t need to buy organic (those on the Clean 15 list). I’m going to make a few assumptions here. First, I’m assuming you buy organic food, or at least consider buying organic whenever possible. Second, I’m assuming you are concerned about the long term effects of pesticides on your health. Third, I’m assuming you’ve probably heard of the “Clean 15” and “Dirty dozen” list by the Environmental Working Group. Finally, I’m also assuming maybe you’ve decided – based on the list- what produce you don’t need to buy organic (those on the Clean 15 list).

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Photo- ewg.org

However, if you buy organic for fear of pesticide residues not only on your health but also for the health of the environment, please read on (also read on if you do not believe organic food has any benefits and not worth the money). According to “Beyond pesticides”, a non-profit organization headquartered in Washington DC, the EWG group’s “Clean 15 list”, while being helpful in alerting customers to the hazardous residues on food, falls short since residues on food are only part of the story. Unfortunately, the very same conventionally grown, “clean” food crops may be grown with hazardous pesticides that get into waterways and groundwater, contaminate communities, poison farm workers and kill wildlife, and still not show up on food at detectable levels .

Beyond Pesticides’ group considers other parameters such as Farmer/ Worker acute poisoning, Farmer/ worker chronic poisoning, stream contaminant, ground water contaminant, wildlife poisoning, long-range transport and toxicity to pollinators to determine whether conventionally grown crops popularly listed under the ‘Clean 15’ are really clean. The findings are very disappointing: Asparagus, cabbage, cantaloupe, corn, eggplant, grapefruit, honeydew, onion, peas, pineapple, sweet potato and watermelon score poorly on all parameters. What this means is that, these foods are really no clean at all. They are grown with pesticides that are known to be toxic to farmers, contaminate streams and water sources, poison wildlife, drift to long distances via air and water, and are toxic to bees! The EWG’s website also mentions (in very tiny font) that “A small amount of sweet corn, papaya and summer squash sold in the United States is produced from GMO seedstock. Buy organic varieties of these crops if you want to avoid GMO produce.” Since everyone should be avoiding GMO produce, this brings down the ‘Clean 15’ list by another 3 crops.

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Photo – http://getrefe.tumblr.com/

Aside from pesticide residues on the food we eat, one compelling reason for supporting organic farming is how it benefits the environment. In the long run, caring for the environment actually saves money. While one may not immediately see the benefits (in terms of cost, compared to paying less at the grocery counter for conventional produce), organic farming does have the potential to save a lot of money from pollution cleanup, soil fertility replenishment, cleaning up water resources, etc. This is not just for Government agencies, NGOs and Non-profits (where eventually the funds come from taxpayer money), but even at an individual level where we may have to pay a lot for clean air and water in the not too distant future, unless we act together to save our environment from the impact of hazardous chemicals.

In conclusion – if you buy organic not just for your health and the health of your family but also for the health of the environment as a whole, please consider buying everything organic, not just those on the EWG’s “Dirty dozen” list.

 

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