How dangerous is pesticide residue on produce?

SACRAMENTO – The debate over conventionally-grown versus organically-grown produce continues, with two groups weighing in Tuesday.

The Environmental Working Group released "The Dirty Dozen," its list of fruits and vegetables most likely to contain pesticide residue.

Apples, strawberries and grapes were the top three on the list.

In response, the Alliance for Food and Farming released its own body of research, citing numerous peer-reviewed journals and U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics. The reports say the level of pesticides that are possibly present on commercially-grown produce is so low, it would pose no threats to anyone who eats fruits and vegetables.

The Alliance's executive director, Mary Dolan, called "The Dirty Dozen" list a "scare tactic."

"[The USDA and EPA's] monitoring for the past 20 years shows that residues that may be present on fruits and vegetables are so small that they pose no health risk," Dolan said.

The Alliance has a calculator on its website that shows how many servings per day one would have to eat before the levels of pesticide residue on produce becomes dangerous, based on USDA data. An adult man, for example, would have to eat 571 apples in a day before reaching that critical level of pesticides ingested, according to the calculator.

Dolan worried the message sent by the list discourages families from eating fruits and vegetables. She said the USDA encourages eating more fruits and vegetables, regardless of if it is grown conventionally or organically.

"Consumers should eat all kinds of fruits and vegetables, conventional or organic, they both are very, very safe," Dolan said.


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