The Dirty Dozen: Top 12 Foods to Eat Organic.

22 06 2009

1. Meat.

  • For overall environmental impact, meat is the king of foods, even if it’s not the most likely to have pesticide residue per se.
  • Contrary to a widely reported “fact,” meat typically contains less pesticide residue than plant-based foods, but raising animals with conventional modern methods often means using hormones to speed up growth, antibiotics to resist disease on crowded feed lots, and both pesticides and chemical fertilizers to grow the grain fed to the animals. Additionally, it takes many times the water and energy to raise one meal’s worth of meat than it does one meal’s worth of grain.
  • Consumers looking to avoid meats raised with these substances can seek out certified organic meat. To meet USDA standards, this meat can come only from animals fed organic feed and given no hormones or antibiotics. Searching out cuts from grass-fed animals ensures that you’re eating meat from an animal that was fed a more natural diet, and looking for a local source of meats lets you question the farmer directly about the animal’s diet and the farmer’s method of raising it. It cuts down on the environmental cost of transportation, too.

2. Milk.

  • Pesticides and other man-made chemicals have been found in human breast milk, so it should come as no surprise that they have been found in dairy products, too. While any residues detected have been rare, and of low concentration, milk is of special concern because it is a staple of a child’s diets.
  • Organic dairies cannot feed their cows with grains grown with pesticides, nor can they use antibiotics or growth hormones like rGBH or rBST. The overall impact of the herd is lessened when you choose organic milk.
3. Coffee.
  • Many of the beans you buy are grown in countries that don’t regulate use of chemicals and pesticides. Look for the USDA Organic label to ensure you’re not buying beans that have been grown or processed with the use of potentially harmful chemicals.
  • Go a step or two further, and look for the Fair Trade Certified label to ensure that your purchase supports farmers who are paid fairly and treated well. And look for shade-grown varieties for the trifecta: Then you know the coffee is being grown under the canopy of the rainforest, leaving those ancient trees intact, along with the wildlife — particularly songbirds — that call them home.
4. Peaches.
  • Multiple pesticides are regularly applied to these delicately skinned fruits in conventional orchards.
  • Can’t find organic? Safer alternatives include watermelon, tangerines, oranges and grapefruit.
5. Apples.
  • Like peaches, apples are typically grown with the use of poisons to kill a variety of pests, from fungi to insects. Scrubbing and peeling doesn’t eliminate chemical residue completely, so it’s best to buy organic when it comes to apples. Peeling a fruit or vegetable also strips away many of their beneficial nutrients.
  • Can’t find organic? Safer alternatives include watermelon, bananas and tangerines.
6. Sweet Bell Peppers.
  • Peppers have thin skins that don’t offer much of a barrier to pesticides. They’re often heavily sprayed with insecticides.
  • Can’t find organic? Safer alternatives include green peas, broccoli and cabbage.
7. Celery.
  • Celery has no protective skin, which makes it almost impossible to wash off the chemicals that are used on conventional crops.
  • Can’t find organic? Safer alternatives include broccoli, radishes and onions.
8. Nectarines.
  • There were 26 different types of pesticides found on tested nectarines.
  • Can’t find organic? Safer alternatives include, watermelon, papaya and mango.
9. Strawberries.
  • If you buy strawberries out of season, they’re most likely imported from countries that use less-stringent regulations for pesticide use.
  • Can’t find organic? Safer alternatives include blueberries, kiwi and pineapples.
10. Cherries.
  • Even locally grown cherries are not safe. In fact, cherries grown in the U.S. were found to have three times more pesticide residue then imported cherries.
  • Can’t find organic? Safer alternatives include blueberries, raspberries and cranberries.
11. Kale.
  • Traditionally kale is known as a hardier vegetable that rarely suffers from pests and disease, but it was found to have high amounts of pesticide residue when tested this year.
  • Can’t find organic? Safer alternatives include cabbage, asparagus and broccoli.
12. Pears.
  • As insects become more resilient to the pesticides used on pears, more and more chemicals are used. The safest bet is to go organic.
  • Can’t find organic? Safer alternatives include grapefruit, honeydew mellon and mangos.