From Too Many Chefs -

May 17, 2004
Organic or Affordable?

How can you make good decisions about what to buy organic and what to buy traditionally grown? I like organic produce, but I also like affordable produce. Ideally, I like to buy locally grown foods. However, Chicago has a relatively short growing season, and organics don't tend to travel as well as their industrial mass-produced cousins. This translates to high prices on organic goods.

So how do I know what it makes sense to buy organic and what I can get away with buying the traditional versions of? One indicator might be the amount of pesticides used to grow the foods. This wallet card, which I found from a link on the Daily Bread, gives a nice guide to pesticide use on more popular vegetables and fruits.

Apples, Bell Peppers, Celery, Imported Grapes, Cherries, Nectarines, Peaches, Pears, Potatoes, Raspberries, Spinach, and Strawberries all get blasted with pesticides while being grown. You should buy organic versions of these products.

Asparagus, Avocados, Bananas, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Corn, Kiwi, Mangoes, Onions, Papaya, Pineapples, and Sweet Peas require relatively few pesticides even when grown in a non-organic manner. You can probably get away with standard versions of these veggies and fruit.

Wash everything well in any case, unless you want to evolve your pesticide resistence.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at May 17, 2004 2:15 PM | TrackBack

I'm a geek with too much time on my hands. But I cross checked this 'study' as closely as I can. I acknowledge that there are plenty of pesticides being used. I also think we should be careful. But...

1) I can't locate the actual study the Daily Bread cites. I can find the website. I can find a study that checks pesticide metabolite in upper middle class children.

2) The study is done by a purely environmental organization. It makes some hokey assumptions about where the pesticides come from. It also is extremely vague about what the pesticides do to people. Not that it can really be that good.

3) Here is the link to the study.

The list that the Daily Bread pulls can only come from this one at the end of the study, but I fail to see how it all goes together. Maybe I'm just stupid.

My conclusion: WOLF WOLF WOLF!!!

Posted by Bryan on May 18, 2004 at 4:35 PM

From personal experience, I can say that cherries seem to have some weird pesticide of some sort on them in the US, as my husband has found that if they aren't washed very thoroughly his lips swell up like watermelons. We haven't noticed the problem here in France (or with any other fruit). Despite your scepticism Bryan I'd say it's still a good idea to wash your fruits and veggies thoroughly. Good work on the investigative research though!

Posted by Meg in Paris on May 19, 2004 at 4:28 AM

Of course upon reflection I have to admit that it's a good idea to wash your organic veggies and fruits thoroughly too...

Posted by Meg in Paris on May 19, 2004 at 4:29 AM

The study you cite is not the study they used to draw up the wallet card. On the methodology page on their foodnews website - , you'll see the wallet card is based on 100,000 tests done on foods between 1992 and 2000 by the USDA.

You may or may not agree with their analysis of the effects of those pesticides on people, but I think it's smart to know what foods may be more likely to be contaminated with residue pesticides. In fact, here's a bonus link to the full chart of 46 foods that were rated.

I thoroughly agree with Meg that you should always wash your vegetables. I'm not crazy about eating either malathion or manure.

Posted by Barrett on May 19, 2004 at 8:58 AM

Well, jeez. I wasn't advocating that we don't use pesticides. Nor was I saying that we shouldn't wash our veggies and be careful.

It's just not clear that 1) Some FDA approved pesticide is harmful and 2) That you can take a 'study' at face value when you don't know either the source of the study nor the variables contained in it.

The link provided by Barrett is a clearer chart. Somewhat scary in its full flavor.

However... which pesticides? What harm level? After all nicotine is a pesticide. So is citric acid. So is it's derivate citronella. Arsenic is a pesticide as well.

I object to the use of pseudo-scientific jargon and loaded words used for maximum scare. I object to reading a chart that has no explanation of the methodology used to garner data. Where did they even come up with that bullshit rating in the third column anyway?

This all said, I take the warning seriously as well. Be careful about the foods that rank highest on the chart for pesticide use.

But, while we cower and complain, let's also remember the use of inorganic fertilizers, fungus retardants and killers, and the fact that cyanide is in all apple seeds.

Posted by Bryan on May 19, 2004 at 1:17 PM

Jane (or Bryan), you ignorant slut.

Actually, you reminded me of the Saturday Night Live skit from way back when. John Belushi played a spokesman for the chemical industry who told us that chemicals are in all our food - H20 - good old fashioned water. NaCl - Simple table salt. Jane Curtin offered him a cold glass of H2SO4, and he said, "Sure, what is it?" and drank it, wherupon she revealed that it was Sulfuric Acid and Belushi flopped to the floor, screaming.

I agree that environmentalists sometimes use scare words, but you also used the term "purely environmental organization" in a dismissive way to minimize the other study. Who else is going to do a study on pesticides who isn't part of the industry? The Cubs? (They could, actually, with Prior, Wood, Remlinger, Grudzialanek, and Sosa needing something to do during rehab). We certainly can't rely on the Bush-gutted EPA.

You're right that the arbitrary score on that one page is annoying. They kind of tell us what went into the score in the methodology page, but don't actually give us the formula which I'd consider a fairly key part of the methodology.

I'm not saying that all pesticides are harmful, just as you're not saying they're all safe. I'm just saying you should know what you're eating.

Posted by Barrett on May 19, 2004 at 1:52 PM

Ack it ate my vituperative post. Damn blogs. You all just hate me. My response was even funny. Not good, but funny.

I'm so minsunderstood.

Posted by Bryan on May 19, 2004 at 2:07 PM

It's a filter triggered to eat any post that uses the phrase "pea-brained". We don't insult peas around here.

Posted by Barrett on May 19, 2004 at 2:12 PM

Two last notes, Barrett, before we close (hopefully) this discussion:

1) It's interesting to note that many of the fruits and veggies in the "relatively safe" group are ones whose skin/outer covering we don't eat anyway.

2) Who eats sweet peas? Am I missing something??

Posted by Meg in Paris on May 20, 2004 at 4:27 AM

As a sustainable/organic..chef.. or whatever you want to call it.
There should be a universal and basic understanding with foods we eat: Is it good, clean and fair.
Good: means enjoying delicious food created with care from healthy plants and animals. The pleasures of good food can also help to build community and celebrate culture and regional diversity.

Clean:When we talk about clean food, we are talking about nutritious food that is as good for the planet as it is for our bodies. It is grown and harvested with methods that have a positive impact on our local ecosystems and promotes biodiversity.

Fair: We believe that food is a universal right. Food that is fair should be accessible to all, regardless of income, and produced by people who are treated with dignity and justly compensated for their labor.

Don't except the bullshit that conventional food producers shove down your throat. Fast, man-made synthetic foods- because it's fast and easy? But is it? We are no more then a $ sign to them. So why support them, when you can shop local & support farmers that truly care about the earth, the seed and you.

Posted by leah Delyte on January 22, 2009 at 12:30 AM