Most California produce tested had no detectable pesticide

11/13/2013 04:32:00 PM
Vicky Boyd

California Department of Pesticide RegulationThe California Department of Pesticide Regulation has released its 2012 pesticide residue report that shows the bulk of items tested had no detectable pesticide residues.

Of the 3,501 samples collected at farmers markets, wholesale and retail outlets, and distribution centers, 57.5% had no residues, according to the report. The samples included both domestically grown and imported produce.

An additional 38.9% of samples were within the legal tolerance levels, and 2.7% had illegal residues of pesticides not approved for use on that commodity.

Less than 1% of samples had pesticide residues that exceeded established tolerances.

All told, 98% of all California-grown produce sampled by the department had pesticide residues within the legal limits.

Most of the samples with illegal residues were from other countries and contained very low levels.

In 2012, scientists most frequently found illegal residues on yardlong beans, limes, tomatillos and chili peppers from Mexico; snow peas from Guatemala; ginger from China and the United States; and spinach from the United States, according to the report.

The report comes about a week after Dr. Oz aired a segment on his television show about pesticide residues titled, "“What the Food Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know."

The show was "clearly designed to scare viewers and raise produce safety concerns," according to a news release from the Watsonville, Calif.-based Alliance for Food and Farming."

Oz and numerous other health experts have gone on record to encourage the public to consume more conventionally or organically grown produce to improve their health.

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R Henry    
LA, CA  |  November, 14, 2013 at 11:15 AM

Shhhhh....don't let the Organic consumers know this...they will lose their willingness to pay triple...!

CA  |  November, 14, 2013 at 11:19 AM

So this is good news? Almost half of the samples contained pesticide residues with some containing illegal amounts.. This only bolsters the argument for eating organic

Don Mayfield    
pdx  |  November, 14, 2013 at 11:27 AM

maybe conventional should go organic if they are not using poison after all it is the growing segment of the industry and incidentally OG consumers are concerned about the soil and water health as well as their own....

Texas  |  November, 14, 2013 at 11:29 AM

And organic produce has NO pesticides? Give me a break. If I believed that, next thing you'll want to do is sell me a bridge. Organic growers can use pesticides, just not synthetic pesticides. Believe me, organic use tons of pesticides. Sulfur, which is approved for organic use, is the most widely used pesticide in the nation based on pounds used annually.

John R. French    
Marietta, Georgia  |  November, 15, 2013 at 10:23 AM

Your statement not true. The article states that only 2.8% had residues that were not within legal limits, i.e. tolerances. That means that 97.2% of the samples contained legal levels of residues or no residues. Most of the 2.8% came from other countries, i.e. not the U.S. The "Dr. Oz" polemic was just one more ill advised attempt to promote "organic" (whatever that means) at the expense of good agricultural practice that is conducted in our country. Dr. Oz does no one any good service by propagating fear among an ill informed public audience. He should have stressed the following: a) The vast majority of foods produced in the U.S. are safe to eat. b) Those that might contain pesticide residues are identified by the rigorous testing programs that are conducted by governmental agencies and private testing services, and are removed from commerce. c) There is absolutely no evidence that "organic" food commodities are any safer than those produced by means of conventional agriculture.

John R. French    
Marietta, Georgia  |  November, 15, 2013 at 10:44 AM

Don, what are you trying to imply here? Are you postulating that "organic" food commodities contain no poison? If so, you are clearly off track from reality. Virtually all plant sources of foods contain poisons at some level. Most of the toxic substances are present at levels that are not harmful, so that the foods produced from them are safe to eat. Some naturally produced toxins are found, though, at sufficient levels to cause harm to humans and animals that consume them. The propensity for that to occur is greater in plants that have been exposed to insects or disease causing organisms, which by the way may be more prone to occur in "organic" agriculture than it does in "conventional" agriculture. On that basis one could credibly postulate that conventionally produced plant foods could be safer than organic ones. My main point is that to presume that "organic" is somehow safer than "conventional" is more of a religious belief than one based on objective, scientifically produced information. In a broader sense, it's easier to throw rocks and destroy something than it is to carefully build something that will stand the test of time. Modern conventional agriculture, which is responsible for feeding over 6 billion people on this planet, is the latter. Before taking an extreme political position that would revert agricultural practices to "organic" systems that were capable of feeding only around 1/2 billion people up until the middle of the 19th century, you should ask yourself who among us should constitute the 5 1/2 billion people that would be destined to death by starvation.

Guadalajara  |  November, 16, 2013 at 03:08 PM

John, your claims would be more believable if you bothered to cite credible studies to support them and refrained from arriving at such bizarre conclusions. At present, agriculture is profitable mainly for it's intermediaries, the distributors of the produce and the providers of ag inputs and services sold to farmers; but not so great for either farmers and consumers. The FAO is currently creating guidelines for it's new Global Soil Partnership, intended to rein in both the loss of farmland and a continuing decrease in soil fertility, due to the fact that current conventional ag production systems don't take into account the source of the fertility: Soil Microorganisms whose presence, activity and diversity are impaired by the use of most synthetic agricultural chemicals. Agriculture is by nature a biologically based activity. Without a biologically active growth medium -the soil- fertility diminishes and farmers are forced into a permanent state of dependency on the off-farm sourced inputs that created the need for their continued use. The soil is an environment populated by beneficial organisms that provide ecological services that deal with the deficiencies and imbalances that allow pathogens and pests to thrive. Organic foods began as a response to this problem but the movement was sidetracked into a marketing tool that prevents farmers themselves from informing consumers regarding the means via which they cultivated their crops. Only USDA accredited certifying Agencies can do that, since OFPA (Organic Food Production Act) was passed in 2002. The principles and practices underlying organic production are valid, but insufficient resources are being dedicated to develop biologically based ag production systems

WI  |  November, 17, 2013 at 08:43 AM

Gosh, any farmers here? It's obvious by some statements here that consumers really have no clue... Get your hands dirty, I agree the article is deceiving 42.5% had residue and TONS of other info is missing and unclear. Bottom line organic improves soil quality through management that will increase production over time, most conventional will need to depend on synthetic in puts to maintain production, these input end up in wells, surface water, the gulf, you, in systems larger then just that bag of spinach on the shelf.

John R. French    
Marietta, Georgia  |  November, 17, 2013 at 12:47 PM

dhinds: Since you asked for references you might start with the textbook "Naturally Occurring Carcinogens of Plant Origin" [ed. I. Hirono, Fujita-Gakuen Health University, Aichi, Japan]. It's a scientific review, not a glib hit-and-run website, so a good attention span is needed in order to understand it, but it is full of references to original articles. If you need more than that, I can provide. Whereas the term "organic" has been co-opted to mean something as you describe, it is in fact a return to agricultural techniques that were employed before the 20th century, and which were capable of feeding only a small fraction of the people who currently exist on this planet. Moreover those "organic" techniques were responsible for much of the environmental degradation and human sickness that occurred before the advent of modern agriculture. Protection of the soil environment indeed is essential to modern "conventional" agricultural methods, most of which have been successfully adopted in highly developed countries. Emerging economies where agicultural economies are not as highly developed still need to become educated about good agricultural practice so that their soil systems and the humans who cultivate them can be protected. I agree with your statement that protection of essential organisms in soil environment is fundamental to the success of any agricultural system, however the judicious use of pesticides is just one of the factors involved. Underlying fertility is usually more severely impacted by improper tillage, poor crop rotation, cropping objectives that are not suited to the soils available, poor irrigation management, loss of organic matter through erosion, and other physical factors.

John R. French    
Marietta, Georgia  |  November, 17, 2013 at 03:40 PM

Whitefeather, I was once a farmer, and have gotten my hands dirty many times in my life while tilling soil & raising food crops that fed my family and many others. Your statement "organic improves soil quality through management that will increase production over time" is more of a religious belief than fact. The fact is that all agriculture is synthetic in one way or another. The degree to which we humans impact our environment has certainly increased over the past 10 millennia. My question remains: Now that we have over 6 billion people to feed (some say approaching 20 billion by the time it levels off), who among the human species would you destine to starve in the name of promoting "organic" food production? Conventional agriculture is certainly sustainable, but in order to reduce the impact of human food production we certainly need to employ the best scientific tools and technology to optimize the use of precious resources. The world's arable land has already been utilized to the max, yet thousands of people still starve to death every day, and millions of others are condemned to miserable lives on the fringes. Malnutrition and unnecessary disease among children in poorly developed countries is unconscionable. I know that for a fact, as I have been there & observed human suffering. I also know that in order to bring about any resolution of the problem, we in the developed regions absolutely must dedicate ourselves to enhancing the technology by which food can be produced, including the use of genetically modified crops and other synthetic methods of enhancing the nutritional value of food stocks-- vitamin A enriched rice, disease resistant corn, wheat, potatoes, and many types of fruits & vegetables.

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