"I really don't want to eat food with chemicals all over (and in) them, but organic food is so expensive. Do I have to eat only organic food to be healthy?"
This is a common thought process for those of us concerned about the quality of our food. In my opinion we should do all we can to avoid any and all foods that have chemicals applied to them during any stage of a plant's lifecycle. We can get tied down with semantics on the definition of chemicals, but I am going to use the term in the common vernacular... roughly meaning manmade chemicals used to enhance growth or production or applied to kill animal or plant pests. With any definition, we have little reliable, trustworthy data on the safety of chemicals in modern agriculture, and in many cases the data we do have shows these chemicals are definitely or potentially harmful to humans.
For me, in an ideal world, all my food would be produced naturally with no chemicals whatsoever. But we live in the real world, and it is tough, and usually expesive, to eat a "chemical free" diet all the time. This leads people to feel overwhelmed and obsessed trying to find "healthy" foods. They will often severely limit the variety in their diet due to lack of "chemical free" food products and sources, or they will spend increasingly more and more money to purchase these items from many far away locations. Unfortunately, many of these people eventually give up and choose to consciously ignore these concerns, because it is just easier to live life and eat food without these worries.
But is there a middle ground?
The answer is yes! Obviously, I think AgriTrue will be a valuable tool to find producers that raise food in a way that is important to us. I hope that one day we will be able to eat totally "chemical free" in a simple, local way for a reasonable price tag. But that is not the purpose of this article.
The growing concerns about chemical pesticide exposure in our food is exactly why the Environmental Working Group (EWG) developed its annual list of "clean" and "dirty" foods. From EWG's website:
The mission of the Environmental Working Group (EWG) is to use the power of public information to protect public health and the environment. EWG is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, founded in 1993 by Ken Cook and Richard Wiles. In 2002, we founded the EWG Action Fund, a 501(c)(4) organization that advocates on Capitol Hill for health-protective and subsidy-shifting policies. EWG specializes in providing useful resources to consumers while simultaneously pushing for national policy change.
Their Shopper's Guide to Pesticide in Produce will help you determine which fruits and vegetables have the most pesticide residues and are the most important to buy organic. You can lower your pesticide intake substantially by avoiding the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables and eating the least contaminated produce. Here is their list:
The Dirty Dozen
- Nectarines (imported)
- Grapes (imported)
- Sweet Bell Peppers
- Blueberries (domestic)
- Kale/Collard Greens
The Clean Fifteen
- Sweet Corn
- Sweet Peas
- Cantaloupe (domestic)
- Sweet Potatoes