Organically grown foods do contain pesticides, but much less often than other foods do, according to a new report.
The study found that organic fruits and vegetables, which are marketed as largely pesticide-free, do contain pesticides but only around one-third as often as conventionally grown foods. Pesticides were detected in around half of samples of "green-labelled" foods, which are marketed as having been grown using less pesticides, or having "no detectable residues." In some analyses, organic foods were one-tenth as likely as conventionally grown foods to contain residues from more than one pesticide.
The research was conducted by representatives of Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports and the Organic Materials Research Institute, an independent research and education organization in Eugene, Oregon.
The researchers say that consumers who wish to minimize their pesticide exposure can do so with confidence by buying organically grown foods, however organic foods are not 100 percent pesticide-free.
A significant proportion of pesticide residues on organic produce come from long-banned but environmentally stubborn chemicals such as DDT, which the plants can absorb from the environment years after farmers have stopped using them. When the researchers excluded such pesticides from the analysis, the percent of organic foods with pesticide residues dropped from 23% to 13%.
It is also possible that pesticides may have drifted from a non-organic field onto an organic field, or conventionally grown foods could have been mislabelled as organic.
Some organic farmers use natural pesticides, which are difficult to detect. Although no evidence suggests that this type of pesticide carries any risk to people if consumed, the authors recommend that future studies investigate the hazards associated with natural pesticides.
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