Failed Empire

Chronicling the collapse of a failed society

EWG’s Dirty Dozen: The 12 Most Toxic Fruits and Vegetables

farmers applying pesticide spray

From Mother Jones:

Every year, Environmental Working Group sifts through USDA testing data and figures out which “dirty dozen” fruits and veggies deliver the largest doses and the widest variety of pesticides. This year’s winner, announced Monday: apples. According to EWG, 92 percent of the apples tested by USDA carried two or more pesticide residues. And even as supermarket shelves feature a pretty narrow range of apple varieties—Red Delicious, Granny Smith, etc.—farmers are spraying them with a stunning diversity of poisons. Altogether, USDA picked up no fewer than 56 distinct pesticides on the apples it tested, EWG reports.

And the full list from EWG:

Dirty Dozen (Buy these organic)
1 Apples
2 Celery
3 Strawberries
4 Peaches
5 Spinach
6 Nectarines – imported
7 Grapes – imported
8 Sweet bell peppers
9 Potatoes
10 Blueberries – domestic
11 Lettuce
12 Kale/collard greens

Clean 15 (Lowest in Pesticide)
1 Onions
2 Sweet Corn
3 Pineapples
4 Avocado
5 Asparagus
6 Sweet peas
7 Mangoes
8 Eggplant
9 Cantaloupe – domestic
10 Kiwi
11 Cabbage
12 Watermelon
13 Sweet potatoes
14 Grapefruit
15 Mushrooms

A relevant question, of course, is what to do with this information.  As EGW states in the preface to the list, the risk of exposure to pesticides should not prevent us from eating from fresh fruits and vegetables.  They are, after all, essential to a healthy diet.  And in these trying economic times, it is impractical for many – and impossible for some – to purchase costly organic produce.  I know the risks associated with consuming pesticides over long periods of time, but I still choose to buy ordinary, pesticide-laden produce.

With this knowledge in hand, however, there are certain steps that we can take.  First, as EGW points out, we should limit our consumption of those fruits and vegetables in the “dirty dozen” – an unfortunate but necessary precaution to take in the age of industrial farming.  Beyond that, we can of course increase our intake of the foods on the “clean 15” list, which allows us to reduce our consumption of toxic chemicals.

But with this knowledge in hand, we should also be demanding more of both agricultural producers and the USDA, which regrettably has a very cozy relationship with industrial farmers and manufacturers of herbicides and pesticides.  It should not be acceptable to lace our foods with toxic chemicals – many of which are known carcinogens – and then pass them on to an unknowing public.

If industrial farmers are allowed to use noxious chemicals, then the labeling requirements should be enacted which enable the public to learn precisely what they are consuming.  Only then can people make informed decisions regarding the relative risks and merits of organic versus non-organic produce.  And if enough people start avoiding produce with certain types of particularly toxic chemicals, it can be hoped that industrial farmers will begin looking into safer, alternative means of farming.

Given the tragic state of health care in America, the best we can hope for is to simply not get sick in the first place.  EGW’s “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” provide us with valuable tools in that fight to remain healthy, despite constant assaults from an unethical corporate sector bent on realizing maximum profits, regardless of the cost to human life.


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