Dr. Jessica Shade is the Director of Science Programs for The Organic Center , a non-profit research and education organization focused on evidence-based science about the environmental and health benefits of organic food and farming.
Do you think eating organic is better for you? Recent studies are backing up what many thought: organic foods do indeed have a healthier nutritional profile than their conventional counterparts. And they’re also lower in pesticide residues.
Did you know?
- Conventional crops have four times more pesticide residues than organic crops.
- Eating organic foods can decrease your exposure to dietary pesticides.
- It’s especially important for pregnant women and children to avoid pesticides in their food.
Organic crops have lower levels of pesticides residues.
On average, conventional crops have four times as many pesticide residues as organic crops , and several studies show that an organic diet can decrease dietary pesticide exposure .
There’s been a lot of research on the health risks associated with pesticides . In adults they’ve been associated with a wide variety of disease risks , and the President’s cancer panel suggests avoiding foods produced with pesticides to decrease cancer risks.
It is especially important for pregnant women and children to avoid pesticides, because they can have disproportionate adverse effects on developing immune systems. A joint report by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine suggests that environmental chemicals such as pesticides are a risk to pregnancy . Researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development also published a paper showing that pesticide exposure can harm reproductive health .
Multiple pesticide exposure may increase risks.
Many pesticides are used in combination with others and researchers are beginning to look at this because preliminary research is finding that pesticides can have synergistic negative effects on health , where being exposed to multiple pesticides is more harmful than the effects of each individual pesticide on its own. For example, one recent study found that exposure to a cocktail of five pesticides led to increased effects.
The portion of a pesticide formulation that causes the desired killing, repelling, or controlling is known as the active ingredient. The other components are known as inert ingredients and may range from 0% to 99.99% of the total ingredients of the mixture. Their purpose can be to aid in sticking, spreading, transporting, stability or dilution. A recent study out of France found that inert ingredients could increase toxicity by up to a thousand times higher than active ingredients alone.
So, now you know: eating organic foods can reduce your exposure to pesticide residues.
Are you concerned about pesticide residue on your food? What else makes organic important to you?
References and additional info:
- The Organic Center Hot Science
- The Organic Center: Three Studies on Prenatal Pesticide Exposure
- British Journal of Nutrition: Higher antioxidant and lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues in organically grown crops
- Environmental Health Perspectives: Organic Diets Significantly Lower Children’s Dietary Exposure to Organophosphorus Pesticides
- International Agency for Research on Cancer: Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and occupational exposure to agricultural pesticide chemical groups and active ingredients
- USDA National Organic Program: Substances for Organic Crop and Livestock Production
- Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health CHAMACOS Pesticide Exposure Study
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine: Exposure to Toxic Environmental Agents
- National Institutes of Health (NIH)’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development: Persistent Environmental Pollutants and Couple Fecundity
- Science Direct: In vitro combined cytotoxic effects of pesticide cocktails simultaneously found in the French diet
- Science Direct: n vitro impact of five pesticides alone or in combination on human intestinal cell line Caco-2
- BioMed Research International: Major Pesticides Are More Toxic to Human Cells Than Their Declared Active Principles