Is Non-Organic Food Safe to Eat?

Healthy Living Tip#1 Is Non-Organic Food Safe to Eat?

Choosing between Organic and Non organic food does really matter for a healthy living. We are what we eat. Of late, there has been a lot of discussions about organic and non-organic foods, their cost and associated health risks. This post is dedicated to people who are confused in choosing between organic and non-organic food.

Agriculture
Agriculture

What is Non-Organic Food?

Most of us know what a non-organic food is. Any food which is produced by conventional method where pesticides are used to kill various pests that affects the growth of crops. This method is most widely used all around the world as it is comparatively cheaper to maintain and easy to save the crops from pests. But the major drawback of this conventional method is the pesticide residues present in the food products as well as the environmental pollution.

Who is EPA and what is their Job?

EPA stands for “Environmental Protection Agency” which is an agency of the federal government of the United States which sets the maximum pesticide residue levels that can safely remain on any food without posing any health risks.

What’s your Favorite Healthy Food?

What’s your favorite healthy fruit? Probably Apple or Strawberry? And what about favorite healthy Green? May be Spinach or Lettuce?

Apple_Strawberry_Spinach_Lettuce
Apple_Strawberry_Spinach_Lettuce

Let us first take a look at the pesticide residues present in these favorite fruits and greens (Source: 2015 Pesticide Data Program from USDA) before we go deep into organic and non-organic foods.

As per the test conducted by US Department of Agriculture in 2015;

Apple has 16 pesticide residues.
Pesticides_in_Apple_2015_PDP_Summary
Pesticides_in_Apple_2015_PDP_Summary
Strawberry has 38 pesticide residues.
Pesticides_in_Strawberry_2015_PDP_Summary1
Pesticides_in_Strawberry_2015_PDP_Summary1
Pesticides_in_Strawberry_2015_PDP_Summary2
Pesticides_in_Strawberry_2015_PDP_Summary2
Spinach has 23 pesticide residues.
Pesticides_in_Spinach_2015_PDP_Summary1
Pesticides_in_Spinach_2015_PDP_Summary1
Pesticides_in_Spinach_2015_PDP_Summary2
Pesticides_in_Spinach_2015_PDP_Summary2
Lettuce has 14 pesticide residues. 
Pesticides_in_Lettuce_2015_PDP_Summary
Pesticides_in_Lettuce_2015_PDP_Summary

However, all of these pesticide residues are less than the maximum tolerance levels set by EPA.

What are the Non-Organic food items with most number of Pesticide Residues?

Below figure shows foods with most number of pesticide residues present per the 2015 PDP Annual Summary. However, all of these pesticide residues are less than the maximum tolerance levels set by EPA.

Foods_With_Most_Number_of_Residues_per_2015_PDP_Summary
Foods_With_Most_Number_of_Residues_per_2015_PDP_Summary

What are the Different types of Pesticides?

Insecticide – It is a chemical which kills insects. Some to name are Acetamiprid, Chlorantraniliprole, Hexythiazox & Phosmet.

Fungicide – It is a chemical which kills fungus. Some to name are Boscalid, Carbendazim, Diphenylamine & Fludioxonil

Herbicide – It is a chemical which kills unwanted vegetation. Some to name are Prometryn, DCPA, Sethoxydim & Trifluralin

Acaricide – It is a chemical which kills ticks and mites. Some to name are Acequinocyl, Bifenazate, Etoxazole, Spirodiclofen

Plant Growth Regulator – These are the external hormones which regulates the plant growth. Some to name are Ethoxyquin, Forchlorfenuron, Paclobutrazol & Tecnazene

What are the health risks of Pesticide residues in Non-Organic food?

Thanks to the detailed research done by “Pesticide Action Network North America”. According to PANNA, following diseases indicate a strong linkage to pesticide exposure (based on studies done in year 2004 or earlier).

  1. Childhood Cancers,
  2. Breast Cancer,
  3. Lymphoma,
  4. Other Cancers,
  5. Parkinson’s Disease,
  6. Low Birth Weight,
  7. Birth Defects,
  8. Declining Sperm Counts.

Are there any food Items exceeding the pesticide residue tolerance set by EPA?

Yes. According to 2015 PDP summary, Pesticides exceeding the tolerance were detected in 54 samples including 1 sample of fresh cherries, 4 samples of cucumbers, 3 grape samples, 3 samples of green beans, 1 peach sample, 1 pear sample, 8 samples of spinach, 25 samples of strawberries, 2 tomato samples, and 6 samples of watermelon. Of those 54 samples, 18 were reported as imported produce.

Look at figure below for list of food with exceeding pesticide residue levels. However, US Food and Drug Administration deemed these to be “not of regulatory significance” as the number of findings is less than 0.01 ppm (parts per million).

Residues_Exceeding_Established_Tolerance_per_2015_PDP_Summary1
Residues_Exceeding_Established_Tolerance_per_2015_PDP_Summary1
Residues_Exceeding_Established_Tolerance_per_2015_PDP_Summary1
Residues_Exceeding_Established_Tolerance_per_2015_PDP_Summary1
Residues_Exceeding_Established_Tolerance_per_2015_PDP_Summary3
Residues_Exceeding_Established_Tolerance_per_2015_PDP_Summary3

Not only this, EPA does not have tolerance levels defined for some of the pesticides.

What is an Organic Food?

In contrast to the Non-Organic produce, Organic produce are grown without the use of pesticides or any synthetic fertilizers. Animals which produce eggs, poultry, dairy products and meat are fed with natural foods and not given any antibiotics or growth hormones.

There are many methods in which pests are eliminated in organic farming. Some of the widely used methods are listed below,

  • Using living organisms like ladybugs, birds, insects and some other predatory bugs,
  • Crop rotation, a technique in which different crops or grown in the same land every year so that the pests don’t get used to the type of crop.
  • Organic pesticides made from cow dung, livestock urine and many other natural pesticides

Is organic food costly?

Yes. Due to more tedious maintenance techniques and certification process, the organic produce is generally more expensive than non-organic products. I have compared the prices of 15 most purchased products in the table below for your information.

Organic_Vs_Non_Organic_Food_Price_Comparison
Organic_Vs_Non_Organic_Food_Price_Comparison

But remember that the medical is even more expensive and any one of the listed disease could easily vanish your entire life’s savings.

What is the Conclusion?

There is no known differences between the amount of nutrients present in organic and non-organic food products. Both tend to provide same amount of nutrients.

The non-organic food is pretty cheap compared to organic food in general. Also EPA is confident that the pesticide residues present in the non-organic food items does not pose any health risks. So if you are budget constraint and believe in EPA, you can definitely enjoy the non-organic food.

The organic food is environmental friendly, free from chemicals and pesticides and supports healthy living. But they are more expensive. However, medical expenses are even more costly these days. So if you are not worried about the cost aspect and always prefer chemical free product, organic food is the best fit for you.

I hope this post created some awareness about non-organic and organic products and other aspects related to these foods. If you have enjoyed reading my post, please like it and share it to your friends. As usual, keep visiting my page for new stuffs.

6 Comments

  1. Santhosh S

    Appreciate you touching this subject, Mani. This topic is just pandora box!
    Our farm back in India is the first in our region to go 100% organic, we have been learning several lessons along the way. I can feed you all the data I have and will be happy if you could research more and enlighten us more on this topic.

    Reply
    • Mani

      Hi Santhosh,

      Thanks for the feedback. Sure. It would be really interesting to know more from you about the organic farming. We will keep in touch.

      Regards,
      Mani Y

      Reply
  2. Brent

    Yup, we are really going to have to do something about our food. Short of growing everything ourselves, we are going to be ingesting this stuff and THAT is really the only way we are going to live safely is to GROW OUR OWN. Great article as you went into some real detail. A lot of research. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
    • Mani

      Hi Brent,

      Thanks for the feedback. I agree with you. We should grow our own food to live healthy. I’m sure going to do my research on this topic and create a post about how to easily grow the needed vegetables and fruits at our own house.

      Regards,
      Mani Y

      Reply
  3. Raymond

    Hi Mani,
    Thanks for posting about a comparison of organic and non organic foods. This topic is something I did not know much about a few years before until my mother starting buying more organic foods. I agree that the cost of organic food can be quite expensive, but it may become cheaper one day if there is enough demand for organic food.
    Thanks,
    Raymond

    Reply
    • Mani

      Hi Raymond,
      You are right. Once the awareness about organic food is created, more people will buy organic and eventually price will come down. Thanks for the feedback.

      Regards,
      Mani Y

      Reply

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