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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Do I have to buy organic?

Organic or not organic? That is the question!  What if you can't afford all organic all the time? What does "organic" really mean? If you aren't able to grow your own fruits and vegetables, then you are at the mercy of the industry, well, almost. The USDA has standards for foods that are labeled "organic".When I buy produce, I always purchase "dirty dozen" organic, always. I can compromise on other produce, then, if I need to save money, and thoroughly wash with a mixture of vinegar and baking soda to remove chemical residue. One reason to buy organic is to make sure the produce or product is NON-GMO. Under USDA guidelines, no GMO's can be labelled organic. The other reason is obvious: avoid chemical pesticide and fertilizer deposits in your food. Other than produce, you can and should look for the Organic label on everything from your Agave nectar to your Tofu (I use Banyan brand which is labeled non-GMO).

The Dirty Dozen
The Environmental Working Group conducted over 51,000 tests on produce and published the worst polluted fruits and vegetables. ALWAYS buy these items organic. Read more here:
Although the “dirty dozen” have the most pesticide residue (even after you wash it), you shouldn’t avoid eating the fruits and vegetables on that list. Just buy the organic version. It’s more expensive, but any crop that is certified organic (and labeled organic) has not been sprayed with pesticides. For a crop to be organic, farmers are not allowed to use bio-engineered genes (GMOs), synthetic pesticides, petroleum-based fertilizers, or sewage sludge-based fertilizers.
According to the EWG, the following fruits and vegetables are the “Dirty Dozen.” This means, even after washing the produce, they are the most contaminated with pesticides and chemicals. Here is the “Dirty Dozen” of 2011, starting with the worst offender:

Dirty Dozen of 2011
1. Apples
2. Celery
3. Strawberries
4. Peaches
5. Spinach
6. Imported Nectarines
7. Imported Grapes
8. Sweet Bell Peppers
9. Potatoes
10. Domestic Blueberries (all berries really)
11. Lettuce
12. Kale and Collard Greens

The Clean 15
Fruits and Vegetables that are Lowest in Pesticides. The following fruits and vegetables have the lowest amounts of pesticide residues, so they’re the safest to eat without going organic. I have noticed a few variations on this list over the years, sometimes broccoli, papaya, and tomatoes appear in the "clean 15" Here are the EWG list for 2011:

Clean 15 of 2011
1. Onions
2. Sweet Corn
3. Pineapples
4. Avocado
5. Asparagus
6. Sweet Peas
7. Mangoes
8. Eggplant
9. Domestic Cantaloupe
10. Kiwi
11. Cabbage
12. Watermelon
13. Sweet Potatoes
14. Grapefruit
15. Mushrooms

Produce Wash
1 cup water
1 cup vinegar
1 tablespoon baking soda
½ lemon, juiced
1.   Mix all ingredients together in a DEEP pitcher; it is going to foam up quite a bit. Stir it down and pour into a spray bottle.
2.   Spritz on fruits and or vegetables and allow to sit for 5 or 10 minutes before rinsing. 

Pesticides: Why They’re Bad for You
According to the EWG’s website, everyone should be concerned about pesticides. They’re designed to kill living organisms, by their nature. Their sole purpose is to kill “pests,” such as plants, insects and fungi.

Different pesticides have been linked to causing health problems, including cancer, disrupting hormone function, brain and nervous system toxicity, and irritation of your skin, eye, and lungs.

The effects of pesticide toxicity on children are particularly troublesome. Long-term studies have tracked the effects of organophosphates pesticides and their long-term effect on children. Research has shown that organophosphate pesticides damage the function of your nervous system by blocking an enzyme that stops nerve cells from firing. As a result, your nerve cells will fire without stopping, which can lead to long-term nerve damage. This also has negative effects on children’s brain development, so pregnant women especially should be careful to eat organic as much as possible.

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~ Shelley