Which Foods to Buy Organic

Which Foods to Buy Organic

I have heard many people exclaim that it is too expensive to eat organic. Yes, organic foods are a bit more expensive but if you are careful with what you buy, it can be done, even on welfare. I know this because I have managed to eat mostly organic for the past 6 years, some of which I was unemployed, on welfare, and with cancer.

The trick to buying organic when you are on a budget is to buy the foods organic that are on the dirty dozen food list, those are the foods that score highest in pesticide residue. Also, buy organic for the foods that are Genetically Modified crops. For meats, I stick to organic chicken legs and thighs because they are less expensive than the breast. For fish, only buy wild caught fish.

Dirty Dozen

Below is a list of the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen:

• Apples, strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, spinach, sweet bell peppers, imported nectarines, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas and potatoes.

Each of these foods contained a number of different pesticide residues and showed high concentrations of pesticides relative to other produce items.

In particular:

• Every sample of imported nectarines and 99 percent of apple samples tested positive for at least one pesticide residue.
• The average potato had more pesticides by weight than any other food.
• A single grape sample contained 15 pesticides. Single samples of celery, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas and strawberries showed 13 different pesticides apiece.

The Clean Fifteen™

EWG’s Clean Fifteen™ for 2014 – the produce least likely to hold pesticide residues are:

• Avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbage, frozen sweet peas, onions, asparagus, mangoes, papayas, kiwis, eggplant, grapefruit, cantaloupe, cauliflower and sweet potatoes.

Relatively few pesticides were detected on these foods, and tests found low total concentrations of pesticides.

Notable findings:

• Avocados were the cleanest: only 1 percent of avocado samples showed any detectable pesticides.
• Some 89 percent of pineapples, 82 percent of kiwi, 80 percent of papayas, 88 percent of mango and 61 percent of cantaloupe had no residues.
• No single fruit sample from the Clean Fifteen™ tested positive for more than 4 types of pesticides.
• Detecting multiple pesticide residues is extremely rare on Clean Fifteen™ vegetables. Only 5.5 percent of Clean Fifteen samples had two or more pesticides.

Dirty Dozen PLUS™

For the third year, we have expanded the Dirty Dozen™ with a Plus category to highlight two foods that contain trace levels of highly hazardous pesticides. Leafy greens – kale and collard greens – and hot peppers do not meet traditional Dirty Dozen™ ranking criteria but were frequently contaminated with insecticides that are toxic to the human nervous system. EWG recommends that people who eat a lot of these foods buy organic instead.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

Most processed food typically contains one or more ingredients derived from genetically engineered crops. But GMO food is not often found in the produce section of American supermarkets. A small percentage of zucchini, yellow squash and sweet corn on grocery store shelves are GMO. Most Hawaiian papaya is also GMO.

Other GMO foods are currently being tested and may be approved by the USDA in the future. Since U.S. law does not require labeling of genetically engineered produce, EWG advises people who want to avoid GMO crops to purchase organically-grown foods or items bearing the “Non-GMO Project Verified” label. EWG recommends that consumers check EWG’s Shopper’s Guide To Avoiding GE Food, which is designed to help them identify foods likely to contain genetically engineered ingredients.

Pesticides in Baby Food

The USDA’s most recent pesticide monitoring data included hundreds of samples of applesauce, carrots, peaches and peas packaged as baby food (USDA 2014). Because cooking reduces levels of pesticides and baby food is cooked before packaging, it tends to contain lower pesticide residues than comparable raw produce.

The European Commission has set an across-the-board limit of no more than 0.01 parts per million of any pesticide in baby food, based on the fact that infants’ greater vulnerability to harmful chemicals, compared to older children and adults (European Commission 2006). Some samples of American baby food, particularly applesauce and peaches in baby food tested in 2012 and green beans tested in previous years, exceed the 0.01 legal limits. In contrast to the EU’s position, the U.S. has no special rules for pesticide residues in baby food.

The USDA detected 10 different pesticides on at least 5 percent of 777 samples of peach baby food sold in the U.S (USDA 2014). Nearly a third of the peach baby food samples would violate the European guideline for pesticides in baby food because they contain one or several pesticides at concentrations of 0.01 part per million or higher.

The USDA tested 396 baby food applesauce samples for five pesticides (USDA 2014). Some 18 percent of the samples contained acetamiprid, a neonicotinoid pesticide that EC regulators singled out for additional toxicity testing because it might disrupt the developing nervous system (EFSA 2013). Another 17 percent of the samples contained carbendiazim, a fungicide.

The USDA found six pesticides in apple juice, a staple of many children’s diets (USDA 2014). About 14 percent of the apple juice samples contained DPA, the pesticide banned in Europe in 2012.
USDA tests did not detect significant pesticide residues on carrots and peas packaged as baby food.

Genetic engineering has been touted as an innovation that will reduce pesticide use and combat unusual crop diseases. These technologies have not lived up to their claims in the case of field corn, which is mostly GE. Crop scientists have genetically engineered corn and also soy to survive blasts of the weed-killer glyphosate – Monsanto’s Roundup — so that farmers can spray this chemical near crops to get rid of weeds. But this practice has set off a vicious cycle in which weeds mutate into so-called “super weeds” resistant to Roundup, and farmers use yet more glyphosate and other potent pesticides to try to defeat the hardier weeds. (Norwegian scientists recently reported detecting “extreme levels” of Roundup on genetically engineered soy in Iowa.)

EWG found that most sweet corn, the type sold in supermarkets and farm stands, is not grown from GE seeds and does not show many pesticide residues.

I personally refrain from buying certain items in the market due to GMO or high pesticide residue, yes that means I go without corn and haven’t eaten corn in over 6 years since I found out about GMOs. It means that if I eat zucchini, I go out of my way to buy organic. I also buy my carrots, celery, vegetables and most fruits organic. With a little planning on your part, it is financially feasible to eat organic on a budget.


Tamara St. John

Original posting from: http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary.php


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USDA. 2014. Pesticide Data Program: Annual Summary, Calendar Year 2012. U.S. Department of Agriculture, February 2014.


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