Meet The Dirty Dozen
from the Environmental Working Group

This week we would like to highlight an organization that is helping raise awareness about pesticides in produce.  The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a non-profit organization that publishes an annual list called The Dirty Dozen™.  The group tests non-organic produce sold in the United States and ranks fruits and vegetables based on their levels of residual pesticides. By analyzing fruits and vegetables to see which ones retain some level of pesticide contamination all the way to the grocery store produce aisle, the EWG can guide us towards the particular types of produce we should be most concerned about. In 2020 the group included 46 items in their analysis. The testing was conducted on fruits and vegetables as they would be consumed, after washing and peeling. Blueberries and lettuce, for example, were washed, and bananas were peeled. This means that if you do not wash the edible exterior surfaces of produce, like peppers and tomatoes, your risks are even higher.

At the same time, some fruits and vegetables are far more resistant to pesticide residue and can be safely consumed without the need to spend the extra money for organic varieties. While some people want a 100% organic process from seed to table, this may not always be available or affordable.  It is wise to know the specific varieties that are the most dangerous. The list is updated every year because farming practices and countries of origin for specific fruits and vegetables can change from year to year.

The #1 product on the list, usually at #1 every year, is strawberries.

Leafy greens came in next, with Spinach at #2, and Kale, Collard and Mustard Greens at #3.

See the complete list here.

All of these are perfect candidates for our Eden Grow Tower, with leafy greens like spinach and kale growing super-fast and super big. And you won’t need to worry about pesticides if you have control of your food all the way from “Tower to Table.”

At #4 were Nectarines, followed by Apples (#5), Grapes (#6), Cherries (#7), Peaches (#8), and Pears (#9).

The next items are also well suited to cultivation in a Grow Tower. Bell and hot peppers, Celery, and Tomatoes round out the Dirty Dozen at #10, #11, and #12. Of particular note, hot peppers and bell peppers had the most kinds of pesticides detected, 115 different pesticides in total, and 21 more pesticides than the crops with the second highest number – Kale, Collard and Mustard greens. And spinach samples had 1.8 times as much pesticide residue by weight as any other crop tested. Buyer beware!

Grains such as rice are not tested, but since rice spends so much of its life cycle in water, it is highly prone to absorbing water-borne pesticides and herbicides, even from spraying on crops growing in adjacent fields. It is strongly recommended that you always purchase organic rice. And potatoes came in at #13, so you should probably stick with organic potatoes too.

According to their latest report, issued in March of 2021, nearly 70% of the non-organic fresh produce sold in the U.S. contains residues of potentially harmful chemical pesticides. And this year the EWG is drawing particular attention to harmful fungicides detected on citrus fruits. According to EWG, there are concerns about Imazalil.

“Imazalil, a fungicide that can change hormone levels and is classified by the Environmental Protection Agency as a likely human carcinogen, was detected on nearly 90 percent of citrus samples tested by EWG in 2020, and over 95 percent of tangerine samples tested by the USDA in 2019.”

                                                        Environmental Working Group 2021 Report

There is good news, though. Some of your favorite fruits and veggies are actually quite resistant to pesticides and are considered part of the “Clean 15™. This list is topped by Avocados, which is good news for our family, because we eat a lot of avocados. The rest of the list includes sweet corn, pineapple, onions, papaya, sweet peas (frozen), eggplant, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, kiwi, cauliflower, mushrooms, honeydew melon, and cantaloupe. These are all considered to have very low or undetectable residual pesticide levels, and non-organic varieties can be purchased at lower cost without significant risk.

To make it easy for you to keep these lists with you while shopping, EWG has an app that you can download.  You can also sign up for the EWG newsletter on their website to stay on top of this topic. 

The names “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” are trademarks of the Environmental Working Group and we mention them here to draw attention to the work and efforts of EWG to educate all of us.

Eden Grow Systems is not affiliated with EWG in any way and does not receive any financial or other benefits from them. We just like what they are doing and want to spread the word.

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