A study of government data by the US Consumers Union found that pesticides residues, including from banned chemicals like DDT, are present in 23 percent of organic fruits and vegetables, and in nearly 75 percent of conventionally grown produce.
The study was published in the journal “Food Additives and Contaminants”, and was based on samplings by the US agriculture Department and the state of California as well as by the scientists themselves.
The scientists stressed that the residues were seldom close to the limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency, meaning that the foods are not unsafe. However, the results show that none of the choices available on the market is completely free of pesticide residues and consumers should realise that organic production doesn’t mean pesticide-free production. The tests also included some samples of “green-labeled” foods. There were pesticide residues in about half the samples of those products.
Residues, including DDT and chlordane, can affect organic crops as plants soak up chemicals from the soil, even decades after the products were used. Chemicals may also drift from adjacent non-organic farms when applied improperly.
Nevertheless, the scientists concluded that “less [pesticides] is better” and that “consumers who seek to reduce their exposure to pesticide residues can do so reliably by choosing organic produce.”
Organic producers avoid the use of artificial pesticides, fertilizers and herbicides. There are, however, no fixed standards. Following a number of food scares, the organic food sector has grown enourmously in recent years, especially in Europe and Japan. A London-based organic produce exchange valued the sector at more than $30 billion a year.
In 1991, the EU adopted a Regulation on organic production of agricultural products. In 1999, the Council extended its scope to cover organic livestock production. The rules were introduced as part of the reform of the common agricultural policy.