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Is knowing what’s in the dirty dozen enough to consider when choosing what we will eat?

Updated: Jun 28, 2019

Most of us have heard of the dirty dozen, a list of fruits and vegetable with the most pesticide residue. The type of pesticides used matters as well as the amount of them the plant absorbs as it is growing.

Clean Eating Vegetables
Vegetables For Good Health

For 2019 kale ranked as a third-worst fruit or vegetable behind strawberries and spinach when it comes to pesticide contamination, according to the Environmental Working Group’s annual “Dirty Dozen” report. The Environmental Working Group analyzes Department of Agriculture test data to identify which supermarket produce have the most --and least—contamination. Over 92% of kale samples were found to have two or more pesticide residues — and a single piece of kale could have up to 18 pesticides on or in it.

One of the pesticides most frequently found on kale was Dacthal, or DCPA. This pesticide has been banned in Europe since 2009 and was classified by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency as a possible carcinogen in 1995.

According to the Environmental Working Group 70 percent of produce sold in the U.S. has pesticide residue based on their analysis of test date produced by the Department of Agriculture. Actually, the USDA has found 225 different pesticides and pesticides breakdowns on fruits and vegetables that we all eat every day.

Now let’s switch gears a bit and talk about GMO’s. Genetically modified organism refers to plants, animals or other organisms whose genetic material has been changed in ways that do not occur naturally. Many processed foods contain ingredients derived from genetically engineering, most from starchy field corn. According to the USDA 94% of soybeans and 80-90% of corn grown in the U.S. is genetically engineered to withstand high amounts of potent herbicides (such as glyphosate, glufosinate, and dicamba) and to create insect-resistant crops that produce insecticidal proteins.

According to the USDA, a small percentage of zucchini, yellow squash and sweet corn is genetically modified. Most Hawaiian papaya is GMO. Genetically engineered apples and potatoes are also starting to enter the U.S. market.

Glyphosate, also known as Roundup, is a widely used herbicide. It has been registered as a pesticide in the U.S. since 1974. In May 2019 there was a $2 Billion Verdict Against Monsanto It’s Third to Find Roundup Caused Cancer. 29 countries have issued outright bans on glyphosate, imposed restrictions or have issued statements of intention to ban or restrict glyphosate-based herbicides, including Roundup, over health concerns and the ongoing Roundup cancer litigation including France, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom.

Organic foods have been grown or farmed without the use of artificial chemicals, hormones, antibiotics or genetically modified organisms and they do not rely on chemical pesticide sprays to protect themselves. Instead, they produce more of their own protective compounds, namely antioxidants. They have also been shown to have lower levels of nitrate. In fact, studies have shown that nitrate levels are 30% lower in these crops. High nitrate levels are linked to an increased risk of certain types of cancer. One study found that levels of cadmium, an extremely toxic metal, were 48% lower in organic produce. Organic farming tends to improve soil quality and the conservation of groundwater. It also reduces pollution and may be better for the environment.

So, the truth is the need for information goes beyond the dirty dozen. It’s time we begin to consider whether or not we will look at everything we are eating and make informative choices to prevent disease rather than be faced with the fact we actually may have a disease caused by harmful chemicals in and around our foods.

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