Saturday, July 12, 2008

Wallet guide to pesticide levels in fruits -- avocado surprise

The Environmental Working Group has published a pocket pesticide guide that shows the results of their studies of common fruits used in the U.S. There is a clickable picture at the top of the linked page that produces a PDF you can print out and keep if you so choose.

Interestingly, avocados show up at the bottom (cleanest) part of the list. I assume this is because of the types of pesticides used, and their hard skins. This was a surprise to me, because I had assumed non-organic avocados were a health risk for quite some time now.

In the mid 90's, there was a brief spate of announcements from the FDA stating that due to heavy metal content in avocados, consumption should be limited to one a month. This is the same type of regimen that has been suggested around mercury contamination in Swordfish and other large oceanic predators. I heard exactly one of these announcements on the radio, on a public radio station, then never heard about it again. Soon afterwards, the California Avocado advertising campaign started.

It makes sense that avocados could be loaded with heavy metals for a couple reasons. For one, heavy metal fungicides are used on the orchards. For two, avocados are fat laden, therefore fat-soluble heavy metals would naturally bioaccumulate there.

So, I'm attempting to find out more information about the safety of non-organic avocados. Apparently from a pesticide level, they're doing well. But the study that produced this guide doesn't address my concerns about heavy metal contamination. I'd be quite happy to find out that they're safe, because avocados are one of my favorite foods, and I don't always have access to organic ones.

Enjoy learning more about what you put in your body,


[food guide link via Shady]


Stu Farnham said...

I'm deeply disappointed to see that they failed to rank either beets of brussels sprouts. Apparently they do not care about the health and safety of the 17 people in the US who like these vegetables (a group that includes me).

There are a number of serious issues related to current agricultural practice. Besides the obvious one -- we are poisoning ourselves and our environment -- the current petroleum crisis is driving a renewed interest in sustainability. Current practice favors big agribusiness, which in turn has completely embraced high yield non-organic methods.
The lack of cheap petroleum will put agribusiness in a bind in a number of ways. Petroleum, directly or indirectly, is an critical piece of their business, both in the production of many of the non-organic compounds used and because our system of food delivery is based on long-distance transport.

Proponents of organic practice cite studies in support of the view that well executed sustainable practice can match or exceed the production capacities of non-organic practice over time. One component of the "over time" bit is that it takes a number of years to return to current yeilds after switching certain methodologies (e.g., no-till farming).

The exhaustion of petroleum supplies is not going to allow much more time to make the switch. If we are going to avoid HUGE famines, we must switch our food production and delivery systems over to sustainable practice NOW -- assuming it is not already too late.

Tate said...

ya ..... what he said.
and i love beets, but brussels sprouts not so much

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