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Dread pesticides; can't afford all-organic diet.

I love fruit and vegetables and, well, hate poison. On my graduate-student budget, however, I would have to considerably reduce the variety and quantity of fresh produce I usually consume if I were to go all-organic. I tried shopping all-organic for a couple of months, but it made such a dent in my funds that I actually regret the indulgence.

Are there certain fruits and veggies that are subject to particularly heavy pesticidal treatment? Are there penny-pinching Chowhounds out there with a master-plan for prioritizing certain riskier items for their farmer's market / Whole Foods forays, and picking up safer items from the local chain supermarket? (I'm asking only about fresh produce here -- realizing that the bigger picture should include meat and grains but deferring the bigger picture until a bigger budget.)

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  1. have you considered joining a csa (community supported agriculture)? i'm not sure where you live, but we really love ours as it's all organic produce and for our plan, works out to about $15.00 a week for a large box (we pick up a new box every two weeks) there are definitely farms that offer small boxes for less as well.

    we needed to switch over to mostly organic when we had our daughter and found the list below what most people agreed were good things to avoid (unless they were organic):

    1. Strawberries
    2. Bell peppers (green and red)
    3. Spinach (tied with number 2)
    4. Cherries (grown in the United States)
    5. Peaches (grown in Chile)
    6. Cantaloupe (grown in Mexico)
    7. Celery
    8. Apples
    9. Apricots
    10. Green beans
    11. Grapes
    12. Cucumbers

    Also, i don't know if you are big into dairy, but milk is apparently something that is somewhat important to buy organic as well.

    hope this helps somewhat!

    14 Replies
    1. re: fudisgud

      i should specify - we pay about $33.00 per box which is why it works out to a little over $15.00 a week for the produce.

      1. re: fudisgud

        A very good question. I googled it and got a similar list to fudisgood. From my childhood surrounded by peaches, I would say they are pretty heavily sprayed whether they come from Chilie or not. The article I read said that melons, especialy watermelon were good choices for going non-organic, as are pineapples, mangos, kiwis and citrus fruit.

        Personally, I think it's MORE important to buy organic meat, dairy and eggs than fruit because not only do you avoid pesticides, you avoid antibiotics and growth hormone. I feel like I'm getting more poison-avoidance for my dollars with these items. I consider organic meat,milk and eggs a necessity, whereas organic veggies are a plus when i can find/afford them.

        1. re: danna

          Learn to properly wash your veggies and you shouldn't worry.

          1. re: dinwiddie

            The list above was developed to inform consumers about fruits and veg from which pesticide residue cannot be washed away.

            1. re: dinwiddie

              How do you properly wash your veggies?

              1. re: silleehillee

                i can only assume dinwiddie's kidding. can't really wash them off, that's the problem.

                1. re: soupkitten

                  not only that, but i would assume that pesticides are *in* the fruit, not just on the fruit. much like meat/dairy.

                  1. re: marina13

                    Better to do some research than to "assume."
                    There are, of course, pesticides that can be "in" plants. They're called "systemics." Generally they're used for ornamentals like flowers and lawns, not produce. This is why home gardeners have to be extremely careful when they use anything on their own gardens and lawns. Read the labels.
                    Commercial agriculture, organic and conventional, using pesticides of any variety, use non-systemics.

            2. re: danna

              If you're interested in organic meats and dairy, and you happen to be in the New York area, may I recommend the following well-priced source of proteins: http://www.csapasturedmeatandpoultry.... I've been really happy with the meats and eggs I've gotten from this farmers' cooperative, and their prices are way below those of Whole Foods. I buy their products through my wonderful organic CSA - which is definitely a great, cheap way to eat organic vegetables and fruit.

              1. re: danna

                Check out www.justfood.org if you're in the New York area for info on CSAs.

                1. re: danna

                  I'd refer you to a recent 10-year University of California led study that concluded that organic tomatoes have significantly higher levels of certain vitamins than tomatoes produced using pesticides.

                  http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life...

                  Whatever you may think about the safety of pesticides, this study suggests that there are positive reasons to consider organic produce.

                  1. re: eastvillgirl

                    Even within the article you link to, there is still disagreement:
                    "Lord Krebs, the former chairman of the Food Standards Agency...said that even if such benefits existed, higher flavonoid levels did not make organic food healthier. 'This depends on the relevance of the differences to the human body,' he said."
                    These studies still don't "conclude" that all organics are always better for everybody all the time.

                    The OP could do well with vine-ripened tomatoes from a local farm. Maybe not certified organic but likely to be better and cheaper than something organic shipped from far away.

                2. re: fudisgud

                  fudisgud, second everything you said! very helpful.

                  1. re: gottasay

                    thanks gottasay! haven't had the chance to read this thread in a while ( a lot to digest). but good to know my two very tiny little cents counted for something!

                3. As produce goes, here's a list of high and low pesticide ones:

                  http://www.organicconsumers.org/organ...

                  I try to buy local when possible and would buy non-organic from a small local farm than organic from a large conglomerate. And, it doesn't have to be all organic or nothing--even if you just buy half, you're still cutting your pesticide intake by half. Another thing you can do is buy transitional produce--where the farm has stopped using pesticides but needs to wait (I think it's 5 years) before the produce can be certified organic. Some Whole Foods designate their produce as transitional, the produce is cheaper than organic and it's helping the farms who want to become organic.

                  1. This link, from the Enviromental Working Group website, has some good information, along with a ranking of 43 fruits/vegetables based on pesticide residue:
                    http://www.foodnews.org/

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: Anne

                      Great source. I was going to recommend this site as well. In addition, you may also try soaking your nonorganic fruits and vegetables in some water with a bit of vinegar for about half an hour.

                      1. re: Miss Needle

                        has anyone heard of washing fruit with a little bit of flour? i have a friend whose mother-in-law swears by it - especially for washing grapes and berries, i think.

                      2. re: Anne

                        Thanks for the link.

                        Click on the full data set and see the chart. Even though some may have higher % of pesticides the amount per million is very very small. Cauliflower is an example. So are cantaloupe and tomatoes.

                        1. re: tom porc

                          Oddly, the narrative description only said that "pesticide residue" was present but never gave any quantity. Could be one part per billion? Also never said whether it was the pesticide type used by organic or other growers.
                          Yet EWG still concluded that consumers should purchase what, in their opinion, is best. For them, only one choice: organic.
                          If you gave them you email info, you'll get fund raising letters.

                          1. re: MakingSense

                            That's why I clicked on the data set link. I wanted specifics. While they list the ppm they dont identify the specific pesticide residue. The chart said they found as many as 50 different pesticides on apples. That's hard to believe.

                            1. re: tom porc

                              The scores are NOT "parts per million" - they're percentages - the easiest way to get statistics to lie. Percentages of what?
                              Read the methodology. They used a six-way scoring system so that if even one teeny bit of any type of pesticide - even organic - was found, they counted it.
                              Of the 50 pesticide residues on apples, we have no idea if all of those might have been organic pesticides or in totally insignificant concentrations that could be easily washed off. Or they could give you cancer by tomorrow.
                              Tom, you're paying attention to this and it even fooled you. Yet this study made its way into the popular media - no critical questions asked. Everyone bought into the conclusion the group sent along in their press release which was that everybody should buy organics based on the results of this "study."

                              1. re: MakingSense

                                "Yet this study made its way into the popular media - no critical questions asked. Everyone bought into the conclusion the group sent along in their press release..."

                                Print this on the mast head. It's the truth of every story and every report.

                                1. re: MakingSense

                                  Are we looking at the same chart?

                                  http://www.foodnews.org/fulldataset.php

                                  It says for apples (as an example) 0.894 ppm.

                                  1. re: tom porc

                                    I referred to the percentage list that was widely reported in the media. That is the one that was intended to influence the public's perception.
                                    Using that detailed chart, there are two items (spinach, potatoes) that have higher ppm's than peaches and apples but that level of detail wouldn't have been useful for general media. Even for those who dug for it, it's still impossible to tell what the pesticides are (organic or not) and whether they can be easily removed by simple rinsing.

                        2. there is a great book called "Fresh Choices" that is about your quandry, sequins.

                          http://www.amazon.com/Fresh-Choices-M...

                          it has information about pesticide use, including lists similar to those above, and is pretty non-scary, while still being informative. it has recipes too! you can probably get a copy from the library but the recipes are pretty good & i like being able to splatter my own copy. :)

                          1. The whole thing is a scam to get your money. Wash your veggies, eat less meat, exercise and be happy. The worry will kill you faster than anything in your food.

                            34 Replies
                            1. re: wayne keyser

                              Gotta agree with Wayne. This is an example of Follow the Money. The lists of "foods to watch out for" that appear in the media all originate from those with something to gain. Whole Foods wants you to pay their high mark-ups. Organic farmers have a lobbying group and there are other groups as well with their own ideas that benefit by your buying certain foods over others.
                              America's food supply is safe and healthy. You can do just fine at the supermarket where you can often find store brand organics for competitive prices. You might not even need to buy organics. If you do the research, you might find, as I did, that it doesn't make any difference worth paying for in most products.
                              Pesticides? There are biopesticides approved for use in organic agriculture. You wouldn't want to drink those products but they're as harmless as are the ones used in conventional agriculture. Both are long gone by the time they reach market so simple washing as dinwiddie advises will do fine. You're more likely to suffer from dirt and bacteria than pesticides on either type of produce. The trace amounts you consume are statistically insignificant.
                              It is very easy to use studies, statistics and faulty science to scare consumers. As a graduate student, you should be able to research the facts and do an adequate risk assessment of the situation. Your budget shouldn't take a hit because of unfounded fears.
                              A combination of wise supermarket purchases and a good farmers' market should be all you need to live well on a reasonable budget.

                              1. re: MakingSense

                                Thank you so much. I am so glad to finally see this voiced in an intelligent, unemotional manner on Chowhound. Too often we all allow the media and groups with something to gain to influence our otherwise rational minds.

                                1. re: MakingSense

                                  MakingSense, this is an excellent point. I am a licensed pesticide applicator (I don't use it, though, my last job paid for me to get it) and I can tell you that organic food does NOT mean pesticide-free food, and that there are pesticides approved for organic agriculture that are every bit as poisonous as some of those approved for conventional agriculture. Many of the most toxic substances in the world are directly plant-derived (water hemlock (Socrates' undoing), laburnum, and foxglove to name just a few) and hence "organic" in the ag sense (and the chemical sense, too).
                                  Pesticides often have some sort of oil (called a "sticker" or "surfactant") added to help them adhere to the produce and stay on through irrigation and rain. Hence, water alone won't get this off (assuming it remains by the time you buy the product) - use a tiny bit of soap and rinse well if you're worried.
                                  By all means, buy local and organic when you can, but don't believe that its necessarily pesticide-free.

                                  1. re: glorypea

                                    very helpful information about organic pesticides, and we do use a fruit and vegetable rinse on all produce - organic or not. (neurotic tendencies) i have, hoewver, have noticed a mark difference between organic and non-organic foods personally. in fact there are certain foods to which i have a severe reaction to if they are conventional but little to none at all with the organic variety.

                                  2. re: MakingSense

                                    disagree quite a bit with your risk assessment. the levels of carcinogenic materials on & in conventional produce are very significant, as are the links to everything from severe allergies, cancer, reproductive malfunction, brain function disorders, and a gamut of other problems, many of which were not known to exist fifty years ago. it's your own risk, of course, but i can't see how to compare a strain of harmless (to everything but potato bugs) bacillus sprayed onto an organic potato crop to any of the many many carcinogenic chemical preservatives, pesticides, fungicides, and sprout inhibitors dumped onto a conventional crop before and after harvest & transit. the op was asking how to ingest fewer poisons, a wise & educated choice. telling her that she's being "taken in" by what she's obviously researched; that the current science is bunk; or that dirt is more harmful than pesticides is not only untrue, it is not helpful in answering her question. as far as "following the money," to see who profits from consumer food choices, just google "farm subsidies," "monsanto," "cargill," "tyson," etc.

                                    1. re: soupkitten

                                      The OP didn't give any indication of any particular research. That the assumption was made that it might be necessary to buy expensive organics to avoid "poisons" and "heavy pesticidal treatments" indicated the exact opposite. If the OP had seen any information, it might have been the most cursory material available in the popular media leading to erroneous conclusions such as the ones you have listed in your post.
                                      Carcinogens? Nope. Federal law prohibits that. Poisons? No one would want to drink the chemicals used in either organic or conventional agriculture but by the time the produce is in stores, the chemicals aren't harmful. Links to diseases? Diet is but one contributory factor in disease. Many people with extremely well balanced diets fall ill, while people who live on junk remain healthy. Studies are done as "more/less likely to..." but who's to say? They are not iron-clad predictors.

                                      Science is not bunk but you are unlikely to find serious recent scientific studies or balanced discussions of them by googling. Results on search engines are stacked by popularity, not validity. A large number of "hits" on negative sites on certain topics has the effect of "google bombing" a topic, pushing negative information to the top of the search. This can easily mislead people looking for balanced information.

                                      There are no guarantees in life. All of us have to weigh the best information we can gather and examine it critically. There is no documentable evidence to demonstrate that we are being "poisoned" by our food supply.
                                      The concept of risk assessment is that you weigh the possibility of the likely outcome against your actions. Millions of people still choose to live in California despite the possibility of earthquakes. They have assessed the risk and decided to take that chance.
                                      You can purchase conventional lettuce knowing that the rule of "negligible risk" of 10 parts per billion of trace chemicals is acceptable to you rather than purchase organic lettuce at three times the price. All of the other factors in your life are healthy. You decide it's a reasonable choice.

                                      1. re: MakingSense

                                        Agree with MakingSense.

                                        You can either die from pesticides; or die from starvation because you've spent all your money on pricey produce.

                                        I'll take the former, and leave the latter to those truly paranoid.

                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                          The only way you'll even get sick from pesticides is if they are used improperly. That's more a problem with lawn chemicals and home gardeners who don't follow directions. Anything can be dangerous - even poor information used to frighten people unnecessarily.

                                          1. re: MakingSense

                                            "The only way you'll even get sick from pesticides is if they are used improperly."

                                            That's one bold statement, with no scientific evidence to back it up.

                                          2. re: ipsedixit

                                            Who's dying from starvation? America is, what, about 4-6% hungry and a 40% suffering from illness associated with overeating. We've even got people who are overweight AND malnouorished - figure that one out. Most people would be healthier if they ate less food, and got the majority of their calories from fresh fruits and vegetables.

                                            Who's spending all of their money on pricey produce? On average, and as a percentage of income, American's spend half as much money on food than we did fifty years ago, and at least half as much as any other industrialized country (in some cases it's close to 1/3-1/4).

                                            1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                              No, there is certainly not that degree of difference between the US and Canada.

                                              And having lived in a couple of western European countries, while there is a difference (also MUCH better quality, at least in France and Italy) it is not that great.

                                          3. re: MakingSense

                                            Well written post, MS.

                                            Isn't it better to eat more standard fruits and vegetables than 2/3 less of organic ones? A diet full of produce is healthier and can help your body prevent disease.

                                              1. re: tom porc

                                                Depends on the fruits and veggies. Part of what makes fresh produce so healthful are the vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients which are virtually non-existent in big-ag crops due to poor soil quality. Food takes nutrients from the soil, and when the soil contains nothing but Potassium, Nitrogen and Phosphorous there is no complex base to supply those nutrients. Multiple studies have found that small farm produce has higher concentrations of nutrients than big-ag produce.

                                                1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                                  This is just about food, not political buzz words like "big ag." Remember that small farmers grow produce conventionally too.
                                                  Soil naturally contains potassium, nitrogen, phosphorus and other elements and can be amended by natural or other means. Produce, organic and conventional is equally healthy and there are no credible objective studies showing otherwise.
                                                  If you research this you will find many conclusions such as this one from the University of California, Davis:
                                                  "Despite findings of higher phenolic content in the foods themselves, consumption of organic produce may not confer any added health benefits to its consumers. As with previous investigations, the results of these recent studies have failed to provide conclusive evidence that consumption of organic produce has a positive affect on the nutritional status of an individual. Research in this field is far from being complete and advances in scientific methods may help to provide concrete answers regarding the nutritional content of organic versus conventional produce."
                                                  http://nutrition.ucdavis.edu/perspect...

                                                  Maybe someday someone will find that there is an overwhelming reason to justify spending more money on organic produce, but as of now there isn't any science to support that.

                                                  1. re: MakingSense

                                                    "Increased consumption of polyphenols has been associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and possibly cancer and stroke (5) and it was hypothesized that the absence of pesticides may positively alter the levels of polyphenols in organic produce. This hypothesis proved to be correct. A study completed in 2002 reported higher polyphenol levels in organic peaches and pears when compared to their conventional counterparts (6), and in 2003, researchers found higher polyphenol levels in organic marionberries, strawberries, and corn in comparison to conventional products (7)."

                                                    1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                                      The OP asked a simple question about stretching a graduate student's budget. That probably doesn't need to include considerations of polyphenol levels in marionberries. The cost is probably a greater concern.
                                                      If you seek,ye shall find all sorts of arcane studies. Notice however the constant use of qualifiers such as "associated with," "reduced risk," "possibly," "might," "may," "could,"etc. in studies.

                                                      In the end, the only thing that we are pretty darned sure of is that a diet that includes a wide variety of fruits and vegetable is a healthy one and that the more fruits and vegetables you include in your diet the more likely you are to be healthy. Not many people will dispute that such a diet does "reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and possibly cancer and stroke."
                                                      People should be encouraged to buy what they can afford without being frightened by inaccurate information.

                                                      1. re: MakingSense

                                                        Again, well said, MS.

                                                        And if anyone finds themselves polyphenol deficient (with no access to organic marionberries) a 7-cent grape seed extract supplement may suffice.

                                                        1. re: MakingSense

                                                          If cost is your primary concern, a weekly CSA box of fresh fruits and vegetables from a local organic farm is significantly cheaper than buying said fruits and vegetables from the supermarket. The idea that organic produce is intrinsically more expensive than conventionally grown is a myth. Just don't shop at Whole Foods.

                                                          Don't marginalize the role of phytonutrients. The more we learn about them (and our understanding of them is marginal at best), the more we learn that they have an important role in longevity.

                                                    2. re: Morton the Mousse

                                                      M the M, different fruits and vegetables take up and store in their edible parts different, largely genetically determined, amounts of nutrients. Amounts of soil N, P, and K don't translate directly to similar relative amounts in foods: each has a different role in plant development and growth. Similarly with micro-nutrients, contents are largely determined by inherent plant genetic characteristics--getting more iron of zinc into foods isn't so much the content in soils as the genetic potential for plant uptake. Imagine if soil contents determined plant uptake and food content: you would get fruits and vegetables made of aluminum, iron, silica, and so on depending on the soils. Micronutrients are also needed for plant development: zinc deficiency in rice, for example, is easy to spot, with plant and grain development hindered by grey-white leaves. On the other hand, any grain that does develop will include essentially its genetically determined amount of zinc.

                                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                        This is interesting, Sam. So, there is no difference in the produce itself when it is grown in nutritionally rich soil than in barely minimally rich soil? What is your take on the organic issue?

                                                        1. re: chowser

                                                          Plants grown in nutrient rich soils will develop and grow better than plants grown in depleted soils. Grains, fruits, and vegetables will be healthier and better developed from healthier plants. Differences between food nutrient content from poor and from rich soils will not, however, quantitatively and directly reflect the soil nutrient content differences. Again, using the zinc example, adding zinc to zinc deficient soils will allow for production of a healthy rice or bean crop. Trying to get rices or beans with higher zinc contents to help infant development, however, can only be done through careful plant breeding and improvement.

                                                          Pesticide dangers are essentially from residues left on what is eventually consumed by humans. Most of the pesticides used on fruits and vegetables are water soluble: soaking vegetables rather than washing them per se gets rid of the residues.

                                                          Nutrients taken up by plants end up being essentially the same from organic or inorganic sources. Sustainability and environmental issues, however, need to be considered when comparing use of organic vs petro-chemical based fertilizers (although that calculus is not as simple as it may seem).

                                                          Flavor (a very complex variable) can differ by organic-inorganic not so much because of differences in the nutrient sources but from the differences in plant and fruit development resulting from the nutrient source differences. Nitrogen responsive grains, for example, usually have shorter crop cycles with good foliar development when N is added--resulting in flavors a bit different than those from traditional cultivars.

                                                          Coffee tasters appear to taste differences--but, again, I would think that such differences have as much to do with timing differences in fruit set as with nutrient sources (although, again, flavor is extremely complex).

                                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                            Thanks for taking the time for all that. It's very helpful. Apparently, the farmers 100 years ago knew what they were doing with crop rotations to maximize plant growth. I'm sure doctoral theses are written about this and by the time the information gets down to the sound bites that the general population hears, it is skewed. With all I read/discuss (plus having worked for large agribusiness--though mostly on the "how to sell more" end), I think I have a good general base but always learn so much from CHers.

                                                            1. re: chowser

                                                              Farmers still rotate crops. Plants in the legume family fix atmospheric nitrogen, replenishing the nitrogen in soil. It is often planted after a season where wheat or other heavy feeders such as potatoes were grown. It is then tilled into the ground to be used as compost.

                                                              1. re: Shazam

                                                                My comment was more tongue-in-cheek since it seems like we've come so far, and yet the original way works best.

                                                            2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                              I understand that there isn't a direct relationship between mineral content in soil, and mineral content in plants. I didn't meant to imply such a ludicrous notion in my previous post. My point is that healthy, complex soil grows vibrant plants, and vibrant plants produce delicious, nutritious fruits and vegetables.

                                                              The term "organic" is misleading. I'm really referring to small farmers who invest time and energy into building soil quality through the use of composting, cover crops, worm castings, etc. These are age-old farming practices that have been abandoned by industrial agriculture at the expense of produce quality.

                                                              Another issue worth raising, since you mentioned the importance of plant potential, is the trend among agribusiness to breed plant species for maximum storage and shipping lifespans, and ease of post-harvest ripening. These breeding practices do not prioritize traits such as flavor and nutritional content. As you live in South America, Sam, I wonder how long it's been since you had a truly tasteless piece of American supermarket fruit.

                                                              1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                                                We're lucky here with good vegetables and many kinds of great fruit. As I mentioned elsewhere, I find US beef to be tasteless and without suitable texture.

                                                                We grew, packed, and shipped peaches in the Central Valley of California in the 60s-70s. Not bred for shipping lifespans, the fruit was picked, packed and in cold storage in hours. Then loaded and driven non-stop to places like NYC by young, crazed kamikazi drivers unaware of the then present or certainly future speed limits.

                                                              2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                The protein levels of grasses and at least some grains (wheat and corn for sure) are affected by amount of available N in the soil. Low available N cuts total yield and protein percentage. Note that amino acids, the basic building blocks of proteins, contain nitrogen.

                                                                For many fruits and vegetables I have to wonder if water supply, whether by rain or irrigation, isn't a major factor in flavor differences and some nutrient concentrations. Higher water content requires lower concentration of everything else because the components cannot add up to more than 100 percent. This has been known for centuries in the case of wine grapes.

                                                                1. re: Eldon Kreider

                                                                  Protein levels of grasses don't vary all that much. If you produce milk, your cows need forage legumes or supplements.

                                                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                    While the variations are not huge, protein levels in native grasses are quite important in pasture and hay management in the Midwest through plains states for beef cattle as well as dairy cattle in areas where alfalfa does not do well. This is a real issue for grass-fed beef production. Where it grows well, straight alfalfa dominates hay for dairy cows as alfalfa generally produces greater tonnage per acre as well as higher nutrient levels per ton than grass. If you are dealing with a grass-clover mix in a crop rotation, the clover fixes plenty of nitrogen for the grass so you get good protein level without supplemental fertilizer. There is a lot of land from Ohio to the Rocky Mountains (including much of the dairy area of Wisconsin) that is too steep to use for anything but grass for pasture or woodland.

                                                                    1. re: Eldon Kreider

                                                                      Yes, we agree. We work in Central America to get different types of legumes into dual purpose (milk and meat) livestock systems--mostly on marginal lands. Small producers need to raise protein uptake levels to develop milk fats that pay higher returns.

                                                        2. re: tom porc

                                                          huh? nobody was suggesting that the op eat fewer vegetables, only that she can make informed choices knowing which conventional fruit and veggie crops have the greatest amount of pesticides applied to them. for example, she could save money by substituting other vegetables for the dozen "dirtiest" in terms of pesticide residues. the op can choose to make a fennel salad, using conventionally grown fennel (very, very low pesticide expenditure, even in california) rather than eating the considerably riskier conventional spinach.

                                                          the op says she can't afford an all-organic diet. by buying the ten or twelve "dirtiest" fruits and veggies either certified organic, or pesticide-free local farmed, and eating regular produce for the rest, she can reduce the pesticides she consumes by over 90 percent, without blowing her budget.

                                                          tom porc, if you really only think there are 15-18 different kinds of fruits and vegetables in the world, i seriously would break out your copy of "greene on greens" or an encyclopedia set or something.

                                                        3. re: MakingSense

                                                          it's great that you've made food choices that please you; but you're not the op. many people choose to reduce their consumption of pesticides because of family history of cancer, which is linked to higher levels of pesticides in tissue. exposure to pesticides also weakens the immune system, so many people need to be very careful about their food choices. if the op intends to go through a pregnancy, there's a good chance her doctor may talk to her about reducing the pesticides in her food if not going completely organic, because during fetal development, pesticides can have a lot of pretty unpleasant effects on the baby. let the op make her own decisions about what constitutes a "negligable risk".

                                                          there are also a few serious flaws in your logic. it is not uncommon for pesticides to remain in use in the u.s.a. for thirty years after the first epa reports of harmful effects to humans. the chemicals are often recalled by the manufacturers before the government bans them, because the language in the original 1947 pesticide act has language that states that human and environmental consequences of pesticide use should be "balanced against economic benefits of pesticide use," and the lobbyists for big agribusiness use that passage and the language in several other passages to keep known harmful pesticides circulating. the original pesticides were chemical weapons used to kill & debilitate enemy soldiers during WWII, remember?

                                                          even after a pesticide is pulled from the u.s. market, it's often still used on crops for another few-ten years. overspraying and other improper use is very common, resulting in over a million serious accidental pesticide poisonings each year worldwide. the discontinued pesticide is often still produced, in order to be shipped overseas where there is little or no pesticide regulation whatsoever. then the food crops from those countries are shipped back, to be consumed by u.s. eaters. notice that the "dirty dozen" list includes produce from several countries where these pesticides are shipped.

                                                          basically, certified organic produce is the most heavily regulated foodstuff there is (with the possible exception of some french wines). farmers must provide a meticulous paper trail, and abide by so many regs and rules & inspections that the op can be assured that if and when she purchases that organic bell pepper, that it's as clean as possible. for a bell pepper, the choice is clean and regulated vs. unregulated and ???? for broccoli, eh-- in terms of your own pesticide intake, buy conventional if you want, there's much less poison dumped on cruciferous veggies.

                                                          1. re: soupkitten

                                                            The OP asked for objective information about what produce might safely be purchased in a standard supermarket. The answer to that is not what you nor I personally choose to buy. Neither is the answer provided by references to studies the very premises of which are questionable. As has been stated repeatedly, both organic and conventional produce are grown with pesticides, but by the time they reach market the amount that remains is negligible. The types of pesticides used and the amounts allowed on conventional produce in the marketplace are regulated and you should certainly know that. It is not necessary to misrepresent conventional produce just because you prefer organic. Both should be washed well before using. As Sam posted, most of the products used on organic and conventional produce are water soluble and are easily removed. Cooks Illustrated recommends a solution of vinegar and water.

                                                            Regulations are regulations. They are not things that the public arrives at by logic or reasoning, nor are they made on the basis of single studies nor public opinion. There are many stories in the media, sometimes without attribution or substantiation, often unrelated to food crops, that are used to support or discredit certain points of view. By associating unrelated data and the wrong set of facts, the reader can be led to erroneous conclusions.

                                                            We have a real love-hate relationship with the regulators. We want them to give us raw milk cheese because some of us like it but ban all pesticides because others of us hate them. Respect the sovereignty of foreign countries until we think they spray our veggies. Approve a promising drug on a fast track but criticize if there're any side-effect problems because they weren't thorough enough.
                                                            We can't be made happy.