I don't know about you but sometimes as I load up my grocery cart with organic food, a little part of me wonders if this food is really better than the conventional stuff. Common sense tells me that it is much better not to eat toxic chemicals with my food, whether or not there is a scientific study to prove this. I'm even feeding my 10-month-old Premarin colt (young horse), Koko, organic oats.

Well, now it's official, eating organic produce and grains can reduce the pesticides in your body down to zero. That's what researchers found in 2003 when they studied 23 children from the Seattle area, ages 3-11. Researchers were looking for two pesticides, Malathion and chlorpyrifos (their use is banned in residential areas) in the urine of these children during a 15-day period. The children alternated between their regular diets, and diets that featured organic fruits, vegetables and grain products. After just a few days of eating organic foods, the children's pesticide levels dropped down to zero. Wow! And, once they switched back to their conventional diets, the levels went up again. Fascinating, huh?

Apparently there was also another earlier study done that looked at pesticide levels in 110 children. Only one child was pesticide free-the one that ate organic food regularly.

In 2002, the Consumer's Union research team showed that organic foods really do have less pesticides than conventional. In the peer-reviewed journal, Food Additives and Contaminants, this detailed scientific study was published. The Consumer's Union tested foods in 1997; the Pesticide Program of the USDA surveyed pesticide residues in a large variety of foods in the U.S. market from 1994-1999; and the CA Dept. of Pesticide Regulation surveyed residues in foods sold in CA in 1989. All of this data covered over 94,000 food samples from 20 different crops. 1,291 of the samples were organically grown.

So, what were the results?

The USDA data showed that 73% of the conventional foods had at least one pesticide residue. Only 23 % of the organic samples had any residues (but why did they have any at all? I'll tell you in a minute, stay with me…). But at least they were at lower levels than the conventional food. What's worse, the conventional foods were 6 times as likely as organic to have multiple pesticide residues. Over 90% of the conventional apples, peaches, pears, strawberries and celery had pesticide residues. The Consumer's Union tests found pesticide residues in over 79% of the food, and 27% of organically grown food. Multiple residues were ten times more common in the conventional food than the organic.

Why does organic food have any pesticide residues?

Did this question pop into your mind as you were reading? It did for me. So, here's the answer-persistent banned pesticides that still remain in soils (when you take these out of the analysis the pesticide residues in the organic food dropped to 13%), drift from neighboring non-organic farms, and possibly the mislabeling of organic foods that were really conventional. Yikes. The first two reasons are entirely predictable; the last one scares me the most. That's why I look for food that is certified organic by some organization that I recognize, such as Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA), Oregon Tilth, and California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF). Also, I prefer locally grown organic foods from farms that I know in the area. That's why I love the farmer's market, our local organic farm with a cash box on the honor system, and growing organic food myself.

Sources:

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/print?id=1642533
http://msnbc.msn.com/id/3076638/
http://www.consumersunion.org/food/organicpr.htm
http://www.askdrsears.com/html/4/T044100.asp
http://www.organicconsumers.org/organic/ehpstudy.pdf

Author's Bio: 

Amy Todisco is a recognized green living expert who is a pioneer in the field of green living. She's also a professional life coach who offers one-on-one telephone coaching and group teleclasses on a variety of green living topics (www.greenlivingnow.com/lifecoaching.htm) . She's featured as an expert on the ecomall.com and former NPR radio host, Laurie Howell's, the greenscene.com. She's the author of the new ebook, Organic Food On A Budget (www.greenlivingnow.com/ebookpitch.htm?hop=0).