One of the raddest things about eating organic fruits and vegetables is that there is no necessary cleaning involved.  Aside from a bit of soil and the occasional creepy-crawly, you can pick an apple or piece of celery right out of your shopping bag as you exit the market and get to chompin’.  However, for those of us with a very strict budget for food, or living in a colder climate where local organics are harder to procure, exceptions need to be made.  We have to make due with what we can, and so the questions surrounding pesticides on conventional produce arise. Is there actually a lot of pesticide residue on these grapes?  How much?  Are some foods safer than others, or is it just a big, mega-agricultural crap shoot?

Well, not so much.  The Environmental Work Group has compiled data from extensive tests performed by the FDA and the Department of Agriculture on which fruits and veggies retain the highest amount of pesticide and herbicide residue after being harvested, and published the results in their Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides .  To quote: “The Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides ranks pesticide contamination for 47 popular fruits and vegetables based on an analysis of 87,000 tests for pesticides on these foods, conducted from 2000 to 2007 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration. Nearly all the studies used to create the list test produce after it has been rinsed or peeled. Contamination was measured in six different ways and crops were ranked based on a composite score from all categories.”

The items with the highest contamination, referred to as The Dirty Dozen, are as follows:

  • Apples
  • Cherries
  • Grapes
  • Peaches
  • Nectarines
  • Pears
  • Lettuce
  • Strawberries
  • Bell peppers
  • Celery
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach

The rating scale ranges from 1 to 100, the highest number being the most contaminated.  We’re sorry, but the top three fruits are your favorites: peaches ranked in at an unfortunate 100 (as their porous skin absorbs quite a bit more), apples at a close 89, and strawberries at 82.  The top three veggies look a tad better, with bell peppers at 86, celery at 85 and spinach at 60 (due to the delicacy of their leaves).  You can find the full list of 47 here.

Yeah, pretty gross, but there are other options aside from shopping organic exclusively.  The Organic Consumer’s Association provides a handy list of fruits and veggies that offer the same nutrients as The Dozen that would work as suitable replacements, as well as some very useful tips, like choosing conventional apple juice over apples themselves as it has a comparatively low residue level, and easily growing nutritious sprouts in your home.

The bottom line for The Dirty Dozen: buy these items organic, or forget about it. Why mess around with even more cancer-causing agents than already surround us on a daily basis?

-Jeremy Pearson

Happy New Year from all of us at AP! 2008 was a long and transitional year for most of us. In this country we have seen positive changes and some tragic events. Yet we have to keep our heads up even in economic turmoil and look towards the next year. Hopefully 2009 will be a prosperous and healing time for all of us. We at AP want to wish everyone a Happy New Year and would like to make some quick suggestions for New Year’s Resolutions this coming year. The following list is our 2009 New Year’s Resolutions; which we all plan to implelement into our lives as much as possible. “Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind…”

1) Support Fair Trade: In the next year, we hope more and more people will support fair trade. There are easy changes in your life to do so. Make sure several products that are easy to buy fair trade are done. Such as coffee, tea, chocolate, and even vanilla. These products can be found fair trade in most grocery store chains, as well as in local stores. But on top of that make a conscious effort to incomporate more fair trade items into your life such as clothing and jewlery and even wine! If you are unsure of where to purchase such items, check out the FTF’s list of fair trade stores or even our own AP site.

2) Buy Organic: Whenever possible we at AP buy organic produce and other items, including clothing! Not only is organic items good for your body, but they are great for the environment. Check out your local grocery store, co-op, or farmer’s market for organic produce. Pay attention for other organic products such as clothing, vanilla, chocolate, and coffee!

3) Eat Less Meat OR Go Vegetarian/Vegan: Eating meat is very very harmful to the environment, as well as to one’s health. This year think about switching to a meat free diet or at least significantly cutting back on your meat intake. If you have trouble letting meat go, please try to eat only organic, free range, and local farms. As these types of farms tend to have less harmful effects. If you would like to know more about switching to a vegetarian or vegan diet, check out Go Veg.com or order one of their starter kits.

4) Support Local: Supporting your local businesses and farms is not only great for your community but it cuts down on energy used in shipping items from all over the world. Check out your local farmer’s markets and coops for great locally grown produce. And every city, town, and neighborhood in the country has thousands of small and local cafes, restaurants, and clothing stores.

5) Small Eco Choices: Make a commitment to make small green changes in your daily life. Some easy ones are changing all your light bulbs over to energy efficient ones (it saves you money too!), using eco friendly cleaning products, and recycling! You can also choose to car pool, use public transit, walk, or bike to work. These choices may seem small, but they have a large impact on the world around us. If each person cut back on the little things, we could use less energy together!

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