Can You Peel Off The Pesticides?

I have been buying organic food for several years now, but only until recently I still believed that you could, for the most part anyway, “peel off” the pesticides.  I often bought grapefruit, oranges, and avocados that weren’t organic because I figured that since you peeled them you were removing most of the pesticides.  That’s what I used to think.  Only recently have I discovered (at least more of) the truth.

Without getting too scientific, there are two types of pesticides used on fruit and vegetables.  Surface pesticides, which remain on the surface of the product and can possibly be peeled or washed off, and systemic pesticides.  Systemic pesticides are absorbed by the plant when applied to the seeds, soil or leaves.  These are in the plant’s tissues, not on the exterior and cannot be washed off.  Mother Earth News has a great article which does a good job of explaining the four most commonly used systemic pesticides.  In fact it was this article that explained to me that you can’t always peel off the pesticides.
Imidacloprid can be applied to many vegetables (including tomatoes and leafy greens) right up to the day they’re harvested.
Thiamethoxam was first approved as a seed treatment for corn in 2002, and thiamethoxam products that are applied to the soil have since been approved for use on most vegetable and fruit crops. See a photo of seed corn treated with this chemical.
Clothianidin is used as a seed treatment on canola, cereals, corn and sugar beets, and as a soil treatment for potatoes.
Dinotefuran can be applied to soil or sprayed on leafy greens, potatoes and cucumber family crops.
Horrifyingly, pesticide degradients such as DDT, which have been banned in North America since 1972, are still found in 99% of humans.  How?  DDT takes many years to disappear from the soil that we grow produce in.  DDT is not yet banned from certain countries where some of our food may come from.  It also can be stored in fatty food sources such as fish, meat and dairy.
The pesticides used now have not yet been proven to harm humans, but we know well that they kill insects that eat the plants laced with these chemicals, including honeybees who unwittingly eat the pollen and nectar.  And with the many examples of chemicals used without proper prior testing (ie. DDT), I am, quite frankly, scared.
Children are more vulnerable to pesticides.  “Pound for pound, they drink 2.5 times more water and eat 3-4 times more food.”    Therefore, more chemicals are entering their bodies, and at such a vulnerable time when their bodies are still developing, we could be placing our children at a greater risk of developmental delays and autism spectrum disorder.   Babies born to women who are exposed to high levels of pesticides are at a much higher risk of miscarriage, premature delivery, lower birth weight, health problems and learning disabilities.
Thankfully, studies have shown that by switching to organic food we can dramatically reduce the amount of pesticides in our bodies within days.
After learning this I am ready to vow never again to eat or serve my family non-organic food.  In reality, its almost impossible to not eat ANY non-organic food since we don’t eat entirely in our own home, and we still like to eat products that may not be available in the organic section.  Check out the Dirty Dozen list that tells us which fruit and vegetables have the highest pesticide use.  Picking and choosing may be the best option for most people.

In any case, I am glad to have learned this little tidbit of information and wish this was something we could have learned in home-ec in high school.  Oranges just don’t come with pesticide labels and unless we go and seek out the information ourselves we won’t necessarily learn it.  It may be proven some day that these pesticides are directly related to cancer and hormone-disrupting diseases.  Or it may not.  I, however, am not going to take the chance.  I have stepped up my buy-organic level and encourage others to do so too.  I’d rather pay extra for clean, pure food than take a chance with the health of my family.

For more information on pesticides and how we can live without them click here.


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