Organic vs Conventional: A Perennial Debate

An article in the journal Nature Plants says that organic foods contain less (or no) pesticide residues, compared to conventionally grown crops.    On the other hand, a USDA report says 40 different synthetic pesticide residues were detected in organic food samples at levels similar to those seen in comparable conventional food samples.   It’s hard to know whom to believe. 

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Pesticide contamination in organic crops is often attributed to accidental spray drift or cross-contamination in harvesting and storage bins.  That may be true, but almost a quarter of the chemicals detected were insecticides that have been banned for decades. 

It helps to consider these 2 points.  

  • The term “organic” only designates food produced in soils without chemical exposure for a minimum of 3 years.  There is a great variation in the amount of previous contamination.
  • It takes years - maybe decades, or maybe even centuries - for some of these chemical to degrade or to leach from the soil. During that time the residues continue to contaminate crops.

Given the choice, I would prefer produce from a long-term organic farm to that from one that barely meets the 3 years requirement.

A last word of comfort: the USDA stated that in either case the residue amounts are too small to be a health or safety concern. 
If you believe that, well . . .  ?

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