12 Jun Dirty Dozen Clean Fifteen: When to Buy Organic?
For some, buying organic is a given and for others a luxury they would like but can’t afford. For others it’s a waste of money, perhaps they think it a scam and a needless extra thing to worry about when eating. Well here is my 2 cents with some helpful tips on when you absolutely should buy organic and when it really does not matter, so why spend the extra dough.
First off fruits and vegetables grown in a conventional fashion (this is what non-organic is called – “conventionally grown”) are grown using the standard farming techniques to maximize growth by killing weeds and insects that might hinder growth using herbicides and insecticides. The primary concern with this is that these chemicals are present on the produce when you get them to your kitchen and if not washed off (which is not always possible) you are eating these chemicals. Looking at the 4 or 5 digit number on the produce sticker will tell you if it’s conventional, organic or GMO.
The Dirty Dozen
You might think it’s easy to wash the chemicals off the smooth skin of an apple before eating, but the way these fruits are designed allows for the liquid chemical spray to collect in the little divot in the top of the fruit and increase contamination of the apple. This would be true for nectarines, peaches, peppers etc – and I thought pears would be safe because I theorized that the pesticide could roll off, but in 2017, pears were added to the list of the dirty dozen. The multiple seeds on the side of a strawberry provide a wealth of hiding spots for insecticides that are close to impossible to wash off. The small size of cherries and grapes increases the surface area to volume ratio and should be eaten organically. In 2017, pears, potatoes and hot peppers were added to the dirty dozen, displacing cucumbers and cherry tomatoes, but I would eat them all organically.
The Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen are published each year by the Environmental Working Group, an American non-profit organization who specializes in research and advocacy in the areas of toxic chemicals, land subsidies and corporate accountability – to protect public health and the environment.
So the 2017 Dirty Dozen are: (Always Buy Organic if possible)
- Sweet Bell Peppers & Hot Peppers
- Potatoes (Cherry Tomatoes – 2016)
- Pears (Cucumbers – 2016)
The Clean Fifteen
The Clean Fifteen are the foods that contain the least amount of pesticides when conventionally grown. Most of these are fruits protected by thick inedible skins (pineapple, avocado, mango, papaya…) but sometimes it is not clear to me why they stay clean (cabbage, cauliflower). The list is unchanged from 2016 to 2017 and here it is. Save your money and feel okay about buying non-organically from this list:
- Sweet Corn
- Sweet peas
- Honeydew Melon
The secondary reasons to be concerned though, involve what these chemicals do to our environment. Pesticides do not kill only harmful insects but any beneficial insect that might in the same ecosystem, so bees and butterflies among many others are killed off by these chemicals. The soil becomes permanently contaminated by artificial fertilizers, insecticides and herbicides used in conventional agriculture. Instead of worms and beneficial bugs in the ground, it becomes a sterile nutrient depleted wasteland. In addition, the use of herbicides allows for resistant strains of weeds to mutate requiring stronger chemicals to kill. If that’s not enough, all these chemicals ultimately end up in our water supply. Ugh!
There’s just countless reasons to eat organically grown foods as you think about your own personal health and that of your family as well as your environment. It’s good for you and it’s good for the earth. I look forward to the day that “conventionally grown” actually means using NO chemicals or artificial fertilizers.
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