I will be the first to admit, it is very difficult to fit buying all produce organic into your budget. Furthermore, you can't always find everything you need organic. So, when faced with the dilemma of organic vs conventional (or conventional vs skip it), is conventional ever the right choice to make?
Luckily, there is an organization that set out to help us with the very difficult task of deciding if all produce we buy must be organic.
First off, I say, support the organic farmer whenever you can.
However, sometimes I feel some places may gouge a bit when supplies are limited. In this case there is an option. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a nonprofit organization that each year puts out two lists to help shoppers: The Dirty dozen and The Clean Fifteen. These lists are built based on the levels of toxic residues that remain on the crop after harvesting. EWG analyzes each of the fruits and vegetables on the lists and exposes the amounts of pesticide, fungicide, and herbicide residues that are still present when going to market.
The Dirty Dozen are fruits and vegetables that were found to have high levels of toxic residues that are harmful to humans. Even excess washing will not remove these harmful chemicals. Pesticides are designed to last on the plant even in the heaviest of rains and residues can remain in fields for three years, this is why in order to become organic there must not be any chemical activity for three years. The produce on this list either gets sprayed a lot due to heavy insect activity or they are difficult to clean due to size or outer skin, or maybe even both.
If you eat conventionally grown produce you are consuming and are exposed to large amounts of pesticides. We often feel the symptoms of exposure, but they are dismissed. The symptoms include, but are not limited to, nausea, runny/stuffy nose, cough, drowsiness, headache, moodiness, fatigue, eye/skin irritation, nervousness, dizziness, soreness of joints, and diarrhea. Sound familiar? I am sure a number of people are falsely on prescription drugs to treat this misdiagnosis. The issue is that the only way you can find out for sure you have been exposed is a costly lab analysis and most doctors would just as soon write a prescription.
The Clean Fifteen have lower levels of toxic residue or have a thick skin that is removed before eating. These fruits and vegetables are OK to buy conventionally grown. By following this list and not eating conventional items on The Dirty Dozen list you can drastically reduce your intake of pesticides. All fruits and vegetables in between this list you should try to buy organic when you can. If not, try to at least buy American grown.
You are not guaranteed to avoid Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) by following these lists; you will still need to be careful. The biggest ones to look out for are Hawaiian grown papaya, zucchini, and sweet corn. Most papaya from Hawaii is GMO, but only a small fraction of sweet corn and zucchini are GMO. I believe sweet corn from Wal-Mart is GMO. I have heard they have exclusive rights to this product first. Most GMOs are used in processed foods. I will write an article upcoming looking further into GMOs and Monsanto.
Here are the lists:
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