The 25th annual U.S. Department of Agriculture Pesticide Data Program report revealed the vast majority of American-grown fruits and vegetables have pesticide levels below those permitted by the Environmental Protection Agency, according to an article in Food Safety News.
- In 2015, more than 99% of the samples tested by the USDA showed residues well below the tolerances established by EPA, with 15% showing zero detectable pesticide residue. Only 54 samples — less than 1% — had residue exceeding EPA guidelines.
- While the report notes that there’s no need to pay higher prices for organic produce to ensure food safety, nonprofit policy organization the Environmental Working Group has long argued that organics are safer and that consumers should purchase from that segment of fruits and vegetables. Each year, the group uses this USDA data to releases a “Dirty Dozen” list to prove its point.
For a quarter of a century, once the USDA’s Pesticide Data Program results make their way to the public, industry groups and organic activists quickly weigh in and debate the findings. While no one contests the benefit of government inspection of pesticide use, some feel that the data doesn’t do organics justice, claiming that consumers should buy organic produce to ensure their food is safe to eat.
According to the EPA, pesticides are often the only effective way to control disease organisms, so their use is necessary in many types of fruit and vegetables. Consumers often reap the benefits of pesticide use with lower costs at the grocery store and a wider selection of food.
A 2015 Consumer Reports survey of 1,050 people discovered that pesticides in produce are a concern for 85% of Americans, despite their benefits. Some studies have revealed evidence that chronic, low-dose exposure to pesticides increases a risk of cognitive impairments and diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s later in life, which is why the guidelines the EPA sets are so important.