Pesticide Residue in Carrots and the Organic Debate
- Environmental safety organizations look through
pesticide reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to determine which fruits and
vegetables have the highest and the lowest amounts of chemical residue.
Main Message - The consumption of fruit and vegetables are so important to good health that everyone needs to be thinking of ways to eat MORE of them. It is not recommended you stop eating nutritious fruits and vegetables, however they are grown! The benefits of eating fruits and vegetables clearly outweigh any risk.
Why is the level of pesticides such a concern? Many pesticides are neurotoxicants, which means that they can damage the brain. Therefore, many environmental safety groups are concerned with the long-term effects of eating too many pesticides. While this has been in the news, many government groups like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the FDA have agreed on an amount that’s “generally regarded as safe” to be used on the agricultural commodities produced in the United States.
Let's get it into perspective - The benefit of eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, which are loaded with vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, antioxidants and fibre, has been shown to have positive effects on obesity, heart disease, digestive health, certain types of cancer, and more!
The benefits of eating more fruit and vegetables outweigh any risks in not eating them! Certainly minimal use of any pesticide, herbicide, or fungicide is a desired goal of both consumers and agriculture alike. After all, growers and their families live, work, and go to school on those farms and in those communities, so they also want to use minimal amounts. In fact a 2008 USDA report found that 98% of fruit and vegetable samples had no detectable residue levels at all! Full report here. (pdf)
When it comes to fruit and vegetables, inadequate consumption among Americans is the much bigger concern. New experimental studies are emerging that demonstrate multiple effects of fruits and vegetables and their phytochemicals, suggesting that fruits and vegetables may have an even greater role to play in human health than the already positive results seen to date.
For peace of mind - Washing conventional produce can remove bacteria, dirt, and any pesticides that are on produce. Rinse all fresh fruits and vegetables under running tap water, including those with skins or rinds that are not eaten.
Packaged fruits and vegetables labelled “ready-to-eat”, “washed”, or “triple washed” do not need to be washed, but a quick rinse will not go amiss.
Organic fruits and veggies are always an option.
The Main Message - whether conventionally grown or organic, the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables are still indisputable.
The Organic Debate - It is a common held myth that Organic fruits and vegetables are nutritionally superior to fruits and vegetables grown with pesticides.
How does agriculture affect nutrient composition? Are agricultural chemicals responsible for the decrease in nutrient content? A number of studies over the last 75 years have addressed the question of whether agricultural chemicals and other agricultural methods including organic farming affect nutrient content. The question is still unresolved in part due to the large amount of variability in agricultural data resulting from uncontrollable factors such as rainfall and sunlight, which also influence nutrient content. In addition, few existing studies are exactly alike or even very similar as there are differences in crops grown, fertilization methods used, storage methods if any, etc. These factors can make it hard to interpret data from such studies in any conclusive manner. And of course both sides of the debate make interpretations to suit their cause!
A recent academic Journal produced this piece which claimed that organic carrots (and other vegetables) do not have higher levels of healthful antioxidants.
Effects of Organic and Conventional Growth Systems on the Content of Flavonoids in Onions and Phenolic Acids in Carrots and Potatoes
The demand for organic food products is steadily increasing partly due to the expected health benefits of organic food consumption. Polyphenols, such as flavonoids and phenolic acids, are a group of secondary plant metabolites with presumably beneficial health effects, and contents in plants are affected by, for example, plant nutrient availability, climate, pathogen infection, and pest attack. In the current study, onions, carrots, and potatoes were cultivated in two-year field trials in three different geographical locations, comprising one conventional and two organic agricultural systems.
The contents of flavonoids and phenolic acids in plants were analyzed by pressurized liquid extraction and high-performance liquid chromatography−ultraviolet quantification. In onions and carrots, no statistically significant differences between growth systems were found for any of the analyzed polyphenols. On the basis of the present study carried out under well-controlled conditions, it cannot be concluded that organically grown onions, carrots, and potatoes generally have higher contents of health-promoting secondary metabolites in comparison with the conventionally cultivated ones.
J. Agric. Food Chem., 2010, 58 (19), pp 10323–10329
Publication Date (Web): September 22, 2010
Copyright © 2010 American Chemical Society
Have a look at this Residue Consumption Calculator to see just how many fruits and vegetables you would need to consume to even come close to any pesticide residues that might be harmful.
USDA defines an organic food as a food which is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic foods (fruit and vegetables) are produced without the use of hormones, herbicides, pesticides, antibiotics, or synthetic fertilizers.
With all the hype about the harm caused by pesticides it is not surprising that organic farming is promoted by some as the safest and healthiest way to eat your food. USDA currently does not make any statements about organic foods being healthier or better for you than non-organic foods.
An analysis of 46 studies was conducted by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and published in 2009. The authors concluded that “there is no evidence of a difference in nutrient quality between organically and conventionally produced food-stuffs.” The authors state, “a small number of differences in nutrient content exist between organically and conventionally produced foodstuffs and that, whereas these differences in content are biologically plausible, they are unlikely to be of public health relevance.” Source: Produce for Better Health Foundation.
Individuals with higher consumption of fruits and vegetables likely have higher dietary consumption of pesticides. The extensive research showing the positive effects of fruit and vegetable consumption, does not shed any definitive light on whether or not the presence of pesticide residues may detract from, or have no impact on, the beneficial effects of consuming fruits and vegetables.
However, it strongly suggests that some of the alleged adverse effects of consumption of low levels of pesticide residues are not of the same scale as the beneficial effects of consuming fruits and vegetables; otherwise, the adverse effects from pesticide consumption would be evident in these studies.
Main Message - Fruit and vegetables are so important to good health that everyone needs to be thinking of ways to eat MORE of them. It is not recommended you stop eating nutritious fruits and vegetables, however they are grown! The benefits of eating fruits and vegetables clearly outweigh any risk.
The advice remains the same - For peace of mind - Washing conventional produce can remove bacteria, dirt, and any pesticides that are on produce. Rinse all fresh fruits and vegetables under running tap water, including those with skins or rinds that are not eaten. Packaged fruits and vegetables labelled “ready-to-eat”, “washed”, or “triple washed” do not need to be washed, but a quick rinse will not go amiss.
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