There is a reason that I am willing to pay for organic fruit and vegetables.  Pesticides.

I grew up on a Wisconsin farm where sandhill cranes once thrived.  But while I was growing up I never saw one crane.  The pesticide DDT caused birds to have convulsions and produce eggs with thin shells.  Information about the impact DDT had on the bird population can be found at the Audubon Society website. I am not against pesticides but over-use and mis-use will never replace sound environmental and agricultural practices.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-for-profit, reviews data every year and re-evaluates the safety of our food supply.  Each year they communicate a list of fresh fruit and vegetables where pesticide level has been deemed too high.  This year, strawberries are at the top of the list.

EWG: “The facts about strawberries and pesticides come from USDA’s Pesticide Data Program. In 2014, USDA scientists tested 176 batches of strawberries – about 85 percent grown in the U.S., with the rest from Mexico. When we added the 2014 test data to results from tests of 703 batches in 2009, strawberries displaced apples at the top of the Dirty Dozen™ list of U.S.-marketed produce most likely to be contaminated with pesticide residues.
The USDA’s 2014 strawberry tests found that:
Almost all samples – 98 percent – had detectable residues of at least one pesticide.
Some 40 percent had residues of 10 or more pesticides.
The dirtiest strawberry sample had residues of 17 different pesticides.
Strawberry growers used 60 different pesticides in various combinations.”

EWG recently shared this list of agricultural products as the worst offenders:

  1. Strawberries (worst offender)
  2. Apples
  3. Nectarines
  4. Peaches
  5. Grapes
  6. Cherries
  7. Spinach
  8. Tomatos
  9. Sweet Red Bell Peppers
  10. Cherry Tomatos
  11. Cucumbers

Here is how I use this information.  For the worst offenders I only buy organic.  My family purchases a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share every growing season.  And I frequent farmer’s market and build relationships with vendors to understand their practices.  Following the USDA Organic certification process can be costly to a producer.  A farmer does not need to be certified to produce a “clean” product but you will only know if you talk to the farmer.

Many farmers or producers follow sound environmental practices because they care about YOU, their family… and the cranes.  And by the way, the cranes are back.