New report says not to worry about pesticide residues. Should I believe it?

 

“Care to comment on the article, Ten Thousand New Reasons Not To Worry About Pesticide Residues?” asks Enlightened Eater Facebook fan, Karen Jorgenson Cooper‎.

Karen, at first glance, this article in Forbes magazine by just looking at the title alone,  sounds very reassuring. It basically says we have nothing to worry about.

The article describes the findings of the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) 2014 annual report on pesticide residues in a variety of foods including fresh and processed fruits and vegetables as well as infant formula and apple juice.

Before allowing a pesticide to be used on a food commodity, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets “tolerance levels,”, or safe amounts, for how much of a pesticide can be found in the food sold to consumers. The USDA‘s annual testing of thousands of products is aimed at helping to ensure that pesticide residues are kept within those tolerance levels.

The author of the article, Steven Savage is obviously pleased with the USDA’s finding. He states, ”Each year, the farmers around the world who produce our food (fruits, vegetables, grains) get the equivalent of a “grade” on a giant “group project.” For 2014 they got another A+ as they have for many years….This means that our regulatory/farming system is working extremely well! Farmers are able to produce crops without the inefficiency and quality issues associated with excessive pest damage, and consumers are able to safely enjoy what they grow.

I say “at first glance”, because although the report says that the residues are minimal, critics of the testing point out a critical factor in this report: in conducting the testing, the USDA does not track levels of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller and the most commonly used herbicide in the U.S. Apparently this testing is expensive to conduct.

In other words, while the USDA is conducting tests, they are leaving out a potentially major contributor to the residues. That’s not exactly comforting, especially when you consider there may be health risks involved with its use.

The lack of testing on glyphosate adds to the hot topic of labelling genetically modified (GMO) crops as these crops can be sprayed directly with glyphosate, making it just one of the reasons that many consumer groups are calling for these products to be labelled.

The issue of organic versus conventional farming, though, is not just about human health. It’s also about the impact of farming on the environmental sustainability and the health of the planet, an issue we need to address now and not in the future.

While the debates may rage over the merits of organic farming versus conventional methods, there’s no doubt that the organic movement has influenced how all farming is carried out. Just the very existence of the organic movement has led to a significant reduction in the amount of pesticides being used nowadays in conventional farming as well.

It’s also led to more research on more natural pest control that’s used by both organic and conventional farmers. And in some cases, farmers using conventional methods have adopted some practices used by organic growers.

The growing of walnuts is a perfect example.

Researchers at University of California –Davis (UC-Davis), a world renowned centre of agricultural research, investigated an organic method of dealing with pests, such as moths, which attack walnuts. Their tests involved using female moth pheromones or scents to attract the male moths. So when the males flew to where they thought the females were, they instead found other males. This novel approach to the prevention of mating and the preserving of the walnut groves and crops is used by both organic and conventional farmers. And it’s one that makes for fewer pesticides both in our food and our environment.

Don’t you agree we need more of this kind of research?

 

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Up next: Conventional versus organic farming – what to choose and which is more nutritious?

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Categories: Food Safety, Nutrition News, Your Questions Answered

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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One Comment on “New report says not to worry about pesticide residues. Should I believe it?”

  1. March 31, 2016 at 3:13 am #

    That is not the first time I am listenng this thing. Many companies claiming best residential pest control services promises that there will not be any pesticide residue after doing the pest c ontrol.

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