Living Green: Choosing Pesticide Free

Ok so here goes the first installment of April Greens and Living Green. Of course the first thing I’m going to talk about is the food we put into our amazing bodies.  Conventional foods are waxed and shellacked with pesticides, herbicides and fungicides and washing them off doesn’t remove 100% of the chemicals. Once the crops have been sprayed, the plants absorb those pesky chemicals. Chemicals are literally in the produce we eat! ugh!

I’m lucky to live in the Garden State. New Jersey is bountiful in produce production; there are fresh options everywhere you turn. Of the thousands of growers in New Jersey, only a select few farms in New Jersey that are certified organic, pesticide free and sustainable (check the Northeast Organic Farm Association of New Jersy for a list). So now you’re wondering, “do I buy organic produce that is imported or a non-organic from a local farm” It’s confusing, I know.

Before I offer any hard and fast rules to navigate the organic maze of confusion, I should offer up a little education on pesticides. In pretty simple terms, pesticides and fungicides are toxins designed to kill things. The logical conclusion would be that we as humans shouldn’t injest toxins designed to kill other organisms! Logic aside, research has shown that even small doses of pesticides and other toxins are carcinogenic, can negatively affect the nervous system, disrupt natural hormone patterns and cause eye and lung irritations. TheEnvironmental Working Group noted that even small doses of pesticides can cause long lasting damage to human health during fetal development and childhood.

Given the damage that can be done, it’s important to educate yourself about pesticides and choosing clean or organic produce. EWG conducted extensive research and analysis based on data collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. With this information EWG created two lists: The Dirty Dozen and The Clean 15. The Dirty Dozen lists the produce with the heaviest pesticide loads and the Clean 15 lists produce with the lowest pesticide loads.

EWG found that by avoiding the top twelve most contaminated produce and eating the least contaminated instead, consumers lowered their pesticide intake by almost 80 percent! “Eating the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables will expose a person to about 10 pesticides per day, on average. Eating the 15 least contaminated will expose a person to less than 2 pesticides per day.” EWG has a full list of 47 fruits and vegetables ranked in order from highest pesticide residue to lowest. You can also download a pocket sized version of the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15 here.

So, to answer the question, “do I buy organic from Mexico or a non-organic from a Jersey Fresh Farm?” it depends. Our first choice is always locally grown organic produce, but there are always exceptions. For those exceptions we offer these tips:

1. Download the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15. Start to understand what is “clean” and what is “dirty” and choose your produce accordingly.

2. Wash your produce. There are lots of veggie wash products on the market today, but a little water and fresh lemon juice works fine too!

3. Peel, Peel, Peel! If do buy non-organic produce from the dirty dozen list, remember to wash it and then peel! We know that some of the best nutrients in an apple or a peach is contained in the peel, but it’s just not worth the risk. A new study just linked exposure to pesticides with a 70 percent increased risk of developing Parkinson’s Disease!

4. Talk to your local farmers! At every farmers market or roadside vegetable/fruit stand, there is a wealth of knowledge behind the table. Get to know your local farmer and learn about their sustainability practices. Know where your food comes from! You may be surprised to learn that while their produce is not USDA Certified Organic, it may be grown in a sustainable manner with limited use of pesticides.

I hope this helps a bit! Every time we buy organic produce we are voting with our wallets and making a choice for a more sustainable future!

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