fall vegetables

Science vs Marketing Organic Produce

Debunking some myths: Science versus marketing

by Russ Barton, USANA Health Sciences Education

If you read this carefully and with an open mind, I believe you will learn something new. Or may at least have a different perspective. (I have to state up front that this information applies primarily to the U.S. and Canada, as other countries may have different laws and practices).

Every year I see a new set of “dirty dozen” fruits and vegetables put out by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). As a health expert, this really annoys me. Why? Because it is nothing but a covert marketing ploy for the organic industry. I have nothing against organic produce, but this type of marketing is deceitful and results in people eating fewer fruits and vegetables (research shows that many people don’t just switch to organic produce, they simply avoid eating these fruits/vegetables). Exactly opposite of what we should be doing. I know this post is possibly going to contradict many things you have been led to believe, but the truth is often drowned out by the massive amount of marketing and misinformation on the internet. Then, whatever you decide from there on will at least be based on some facts, not just a marketing campaign. Before I could write everything I wanted on the subject, I came across the article I’ve included with this post. It said most everything I was going to say already, and it is factual. You deserve to know that these lists tend to deliberately twist facts and use scare tactics, and that the analysis they use is not always scientifically accurate. I just want to make a few points in addition to the articles and the published study that I really hope you read.

• Simply listing the produce with the most pesticide residue tells you absolutely nothing about safety.
• Before you say, “But no amount can be safe”, you should know that one of the biggest falsehoods consistently spread about organic farming is that pesticides are not used. They absolutely are. And sometimes even more volume is used because they often aren’t as effective. And, the natural pesticides that are used in organic farming are not always safer or better for the environment.
• The article and research paper explain very well how the tested levels do or do not relate to unsafe levels. Let me give you another way to look at this list. What if you were to lists the 12 popular candy bars that contain the most caffeine (since chocolate contains a small amount of caffeine)? The dozen that would contain the most would still typically contain 10 mg or less. That amount is not enough to notice, let alone overstimulate you. And, if they had 1 mg of 10 different stimulants, it still wouldn’t do anything physiologically.
• And, before you go there, this has nothing to do with GMOs, and none of the foods on the list are genetically modified by genetic engineering, and this based on pesticide residues only.
• The bottom line is that the benefits of eating sufficient and varied fruits and vegetables far outweighs the potential negatives of pesticide use. If you want to reduce exposure to pesticides, choose fruits and vegetables with peels and rinse off all your produce before you eat it. This applies to both traditional AND organic produce.

There are valid reasons you may choose to eat organic produce, especially if you have access to a local source. Farmer’s markets are the best! But, don’t be swayed by the EWG marketing tactics (which also apply to skin care and other topics). And, most of all, don’t reduce your intakes of healthy fruits and vegetables due to fear of pesticides. If you are going to use the lists (Dirty Dozen and Clean 15), let them be a guide to improve the variety of produce you and your children eat. Again, I am not against organic produce as a valid option, but some level of honesty and perspective would be nice from both sides.

Very good article, please read:

Here is a study conducted by professors at U.C. Davis and published in the Journal of Toxicology (in other words, this is conducted by academia not industry, just FYI).

Dietary Exposure to Pesticide Residues from Commodities Alleged to Contain the Highest Contamination Levels

“The methodology used to create the “Dirty Dozen” list does not appear to follow any established scientific procedures.
Results from this study strongly suggest that consumer exposures to the ten most common pesticides found on the “Dirty Dozen” commodities are several orders of magnitude below levels required to cause any biological effect. As a result, the potential for synergistic effects resulting from pesticide combinations is negligible, and the EWG methodology which skews rankings due to the presence of multiple residues is not justified. The EWG methodology also does not appear to be capable of justifying the claim that “consumers can lower their pesticide consumption by nearly four-fifths by avoiding conventionally grown varieties of the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables” since no effort to quantify consumer exposure was made.”


Final note:
A Swedish grocery store chain was behind a video that came out last year showing what happened when a family switched from tradition foods to organic only diets. Many of you likely saw it passed around on Facebook. Most people were unaware that this video was marketing campaign set up to increase organic sales at their stores (which worked, as their sales went up 20%). The grocery store chain was recently sued for intentionally misleading the public by hiding or distorting important facts and other additional problems with the marketing campaign and the underlying research used for it.