How to Ensure Your Fresh Produce Is Pesticide-Free

According to Consumer Reports, 72 percent of Americans try to avoid GMOs when they shop. And more than half seek out the "organic" label.

Maybe you’re one of them. If so, you’re probably careful about what you eat, where it comes from, and what goes in (and on) it.

But did you know that even organic-certified produce often contains pesticide residue?

The United States Department of Agriculture forbids many dangerous substances in organic farming. But it does allow growers to use certain naturally occurring chemicals — and even synthetic compounds that just include minerals or other natural elements. 

Despite being natural, spinosad, pyrethrin, azadirachtin, and other approved ingredients can still be harmful. (They are toxic pesticides, after all.) And in some cases, farmers must spray greater volumes of natural solutions because they aren’t as effective as their non-organic counterparts.

As a result, organic produce isn’t always as clean as you may think. In fact, up to 20 percent of organic lettuce may contain pesticide residue.

Doesn’t it seem a little ironic? You’re intentionally selecting nutrient-rich foods to support your health, yet they might contain chemicals that could hurt you.

And as though that weren’t enough, one study found that organic produce is more likely to play host to pathogens, such as E. coli and Salmonella. This is likely because it’s grown with organic fertilizers (e.g., manure and compost).

Oh and by the way, not all produce labeled "organic" is actually organic.

But don’t despair, dear reader. There are two ways you can ensure your fruits and veggies are safe to eat: grow your own and buy from local farmers.

Grow your own food

Many fresh favorites from the produce aisle — including strawberries, spinach, celery, tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, and various greens — are likely to contain pesticides.

But when you grow these fruits and vegetables yourself, you control every variable, down to which seeds you use. So whether what you eat comes with pesticide residue is completely up to you. (And smart preventative techniques can help you avoid the use of pesticides, natural or otherwise, in your garden altogether.)

Fresh Idea:

If you like the thought of growing your own food, but don’t have the spare time, space, or a green thumb, consider Tower Garden. It’s a resource-efficient system that practically grows itself.

Plus, Tower Garden’s proprietary Mineral Blend plant food safely provides crops with all the nutrients they need. (So you can say “goodbye” to E. coli!) In fact, plant and human nutrition experts developed the solution to ensure it benefits crops and the people who ultimately eat them.

Besides quality control, growing your own food offers several bonus benefits — for both you and the environment — such as greater produce freshness, flavor, and nutritional content, and a smaller carbon footprint.

Buy from local farmers

The second best way to make sure your food is safe and healthy is to buy from local farmers who can tell you what they used to grow it. (By supporting local farmers, you’ll also help reduce packaging waste and lessen the environmental impact of food transportation.)

You may find that you have fewer organic options available locally. But keep in mind that organic certification is a multistep process requiring time and money, which prevents many small farms from making the investment. In addition, not all forms of farming even qualify for organic certification.

Take aeroponics — the technology that powers Tower Garden — as an example. It doesn’t use soil, which is a prerequisite for organic growing. So farms that use Tower Garden cannot market their produce as "organic," regardless of how safely they grow it.

And often, farms like these actually go above and beyond what the USDA requires.

For instance, some of your local growers may not spray anything at all on their crops. Others may comply with Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) — a voluntary USDA audit that exists to minimize risks of microbial food safety hazards when it comes to production and packaging. You just have to talk to them to find out.

The best place to get to know your local growers is at a farmer’s market. So do a quick internet search to find one near you.

Over to you

I hope you’ve learned something new and valuable from this post!

Now that you’ve read it, I’m curious: From where do you plan to source your produce — the organic section of your supermarket, the corner of your kitchen, a local farm, a home delivery service? Or, perhaps a healthy combination?

Let’s continue the conversation in the comments below.

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